Cyberattack Paralyses JBS Meatworks Across Australia and North-South America

May 31, 2021 Updated: June 1, 2021

cyberattack has paralysed the world’s largest meat processing company JBS with operations shutting down in Australia and further stoppages expected across North and South America.

Australian subsidiary, JBS Australia, was forced to close its operations on Monday and cancel its beef and lamb processing orders as a response.

CEO Brent Eastwood confirmed the attack and said the attack on JBS’s information technology systems has impacted meat sales and lot feeding operations, with incoming cattle unable to be inducted without the IT systems operational.

Six sites in Australia, across Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, have shut down, with stoppages in North America and South America expected as well, Eastwood told meat industry news site Beef Central.

The company is still trying to assess the extent of the damage and could not comment on when operations would come back online.

Thousands of employees have also been stood down without pay in response according to Matt Journeaux, secretary of the Australian Meat Industry Employees’ Union Queensland.

“The meat in the sandwich is that this is a concerted effort against Australian business, and the workers will suffer as a result of that,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“There’s six sites in Queensland that will be affected … and around the nation, there would be significantly more,” he added. “In most processing facilities, the workers are on daily hire arrangements, and unfortunately, if they don’t work, they don’t get paid.”

Cyberattacks have become an increasing concern, with governments diverting increased funding to bolster security around the sector.

Government departments and major businesses are major targets. In May 2020, major logistics firm Toll Group was subject to a month-long ransomware attack by Russian-based hackers.

While in May this year, the Russian-based Nobelium—who was behind the SolarWinds cyberattack—began a new campaign targeting over 150 government agencies, think tanks, and non-government organisations.

U.S. fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline also had to shut its entire network—the source of nearly half the U.S. East Coast’s fuel supply—after a ransomware attack.

The shutdown has raised fears of a price spike at the gas pumps ahead of peak demand summer driving season if it persists and has drawn attention to how critical U.S. energy infrastructure is vulnerable to hackers.

Australia’s Parliament is also investigating an attack that shut down its email system in May.