World's Largest Meat Supplier JBS Pays $11M to Ransom Hackers

The company was hacked in May, and had to close down its US and Australia operations for a day.
Fabienne Lang

Following a cyber-attack in May, the world's largest meat supplier, JBS, paid hackers the equivalent of $11 million in ransom, the company announced in a statement on June 9.

The payment was reportedly made with bitcoin, reported the BBC, after the company's systems were already back up and running. At the time of the payment, JBS said, the majority of its facilities were operational. The payment was largely made to "mitigate any unforeseen issues related to the attack and ensure no data was exfiltrated," it explained. 

"This was a very difficult decision to make for our company and for me personally," said Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA. "However, we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers."

JBS was forced to grind cattle slaughtering to a halt in all of its U.S. plants for a day, said the BBC, which could cause major disruptions to meat supplies around the nation, as well as hiked up prices for consumers. 

The hacker group behind the ransomware attack is believed to be REvil, a Russian-speaking gang, reported NBC News. Similar to other ransomware groups, the cybercriminals encrypted JBS's files and asked for a ransom in exchange for a decryptor program, and the promise of not leaking the files online. 

Ransomware attacks on the rise

Last week, JBS announced it was restoring its systems to prevent further attacks, but it said that vulnerabilities remained.

Similar cyber-attacks happened recently to Colonial Pipeline in the U.S. who ended up paying $4.4 million in ransom to the hacker group DarkSide. In their case, the Department of Justice managed to recover around half of the ransom, the equivalent of $2.3 million in bitcoin. 

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Unsurprisingly, the U.S. government and the FBI stress that, whenever possible, it's best never to pay ransomware attackers. If they don't get paid ransoms, they'll hopefully stop attacking.

However, companies like JBS try as much as possible to stay alert and prepared for such cyber-attacks. For instance, JBS USA says it has specific cybersecurity protocols, redundant systems, and encrypted backup servers. It also spends over $200 million each year on its IT systems and employs over 850 IT professionals around the world. 

More and more cybersecurity measures are being created to prevent such ransomware attacks, but it's clear to see there's still a long road ahead before ransomware hacker groups can no longer infiltrate systems. 

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