JBS, the world’s largest meat supplier, suffered a cyber attack on its North American and Australian systems that disrupted its global operations and forced it to stand down thousands of employees.
The Brazilian company has stood down up to 7,000 workers in Australia, where its abattoirs rely heavily on casual staff. JBS has not indicated when it will be able to resume processing cattle, pigs and sheep at its 47 facilities across the country, according to people familiar with the matter.
JBS said on Tuesday it had taken immediate action when it determined it was the subject of an organised cyber attack, including suspending affected systems and notifying authorities. The attack affected some of its servers supporting the company’s Australian and Northern American IT systems, the group said.
The incident, which was first discovered on Sunday, is the latest in a string of cyber attacks on global companies including last month’s ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which operates a 5,500km fuel artery in the US.
“The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation. Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers,” said JBS in an emailed statement.
The incident hit meat processing operations in Canada and Australia at a time when beef prices are at record levels in many markets. It was unclear whether US processors were hit due to a public holiday.
The meat processing industry relies on software and IT systems for tracing and sorting of animals, as well as record keeping to meet regulatory standards.
Matt Journeaux, an official at the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, said JBS staff arrived at work on Monday morning and were told they had been stood down due to the attack.
“This will impact food production. It just depends on how long the shutdown goes on for. JBS exports about 60 per cent of what it processes so some overseas customers could be light,” he said.
David Littleproud, Australia’s agricultural minister, said JBS accounted for about one-fifth of meat processing capacity in the country, but the shutdown should not have a big impact on exports as long as it was not protracted. It was too early to speculate on who had perpetrated the attack or why, he added.
“We are working with international partners around trying to trace and rectify this cyber attack, which is a global cyber attack on their operations,” said Littleproud.
Bloomberg News reported that the cyber attack had shut down a beef plant in Alberta, Canada, which processes about 4,200 head of cattle per day, citing a union official.