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Australia’s largest meat company paralysed by cyber attack

JBS Foods staff in one of the company’s Australian plants. Image: JBS Foods website.

Australia’s largest meat-processing company, JBS Foods, has been forced to shut down due to a crippling cyber attack which has also impacted plants in the US and Canada. 

Parent company Brazilian-owned JBS Foods is the world’s largest processor of fresh beef and pork with global sales in excess of US$50 billion in 2017.

In a statement issued this morning, JBS USA confirmed it had been targeted and that “some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems” were offline.

In Australia, the company owns Australia Meat Holdings, Tasman Group, Rockdale beef, Tatiara Meat, Andrews Meat and its most recent local acquisition Primo, the largest producer of ham, bacon and smallgoods in the Southern Hemisphere. It operates 47 manufacturing plants around Australia and employs 11,000 people across Australia and New Zealand.

The severity of the attack is likely to impact supplies of meat both domestically and for export. Last year JBS Foods Australia exported about A$4 billion worth of goods.

In its US statement the company said it took immediate action after discovering the attack, which appears to have been made during the weekend, on the eve of Memorial Day, a public holiday in the US. It suspended all affected systems, notified relevant authorities and tasked its global network of IT professionals and third-party experts to resolve the situation.

“The company’s backup servers were not affected, and it is actively working with an incident response firm to restore its systems as soon as possible. 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,” the statement said.

“Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”

Australia’s Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has confirmed the government has been advised of the situation and is working to get JBS’ meatworks back online nationally.

Processing of beef and lamb was suspended at all JBS meatworks in Australia on Monday.

Australian Meat Industry Employees’ Union Queensland secretary Matt Journeaux told ABC Radio that thousands of workers will go without pay.

“In most processing facilities the workers are on daily hire arrangements and unfortunately if they don’t work, they don’t get paid,” Journeaux said.

If the cyberattack is not resolved within a few weeks there could be significant flow-on effects, he warned. 

“Cattle get entered into systems to be processed. When those cuts are in a box, computers print tickets with barcodes for them, and I think all of those systems have been affected by this.”

According to its website, JBS Australia’s Northern Division operates five processing facilities and five feedlots across Queensland and NSW, and owns numerous brands, including Yardstick, Riverina Black Angus and Thousand Guineas.

The Southern Division produces beef and lamb products from four beef and lamb processing facilities and one feedlot across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia and owns the Great Southern brand.  

In New Zealand, JBS Foods owns bacon and ham company Beehive NZ, but it is unclear if that subsidiary has been impacted by the attack. 

  • This story will be updated as further information comes to light.

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