JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, has paid $11 million in bitcoin as ransom to hackers who broke into the company’s computer system late last month. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) said REvil, Russian-speaking gang, which has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months, is behind the attack.
Andre Nogueira, the CEO of JBS USA, said it was a difficult decision to make for the company. “However, we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers.” The company said it paid the ransom to mitigate any unforeseen issues related to the attack and ensure no data was exfiltrated.
The meat processing company spends $200 million annually in IT services. It said it was in contact with federal officials and highlighted that preliminary investigation results confirm that no company, customer or employee data was compromised. The company had called in technology vendors that had previously worked with them, as well as cybersecurity experts and consultants who began negotiating with the attackers.
Nogueira said JBS brought back operations at its plants using backup systems. “While the company was making good progress, technology experts cautioned the company that there was no guarantee that the hackers wouldn’t find another way to strike and their consultants continued negotiating with the attackers,” he said. “We didn’t think we could take this type of risk that something could go wrong in our recovery process. It was insurance to protect our customers.” The company’s external advisers negotiated the payment amount with the attackers, and the company also kept the federal law-enforcement officials informed throughout the process.
JBS is the world’s largest meat company in terms of sales; it processes beef, poultry and pork from Australia to South America and Europe. And in the United States, it is the biggest beef processor and a top supplier of chicken and pork. Its subsidiary, as per various reports, Pilgrim’s Corp was also hit by the ransomware.
The attack was part of a wave of incursions using ransomware, in which companies are struck with demands for multimillion-dollar payments to regain control of their operating systems. According to The Wall Street Journal, the operator of a pipeline bringing gasoline to parts of the East Coast in May paid about $4.4 million to regain control of its operations and restore service. These attacks show how hackers have shifted from targeting data-rich companies such as retailers, banks and insurers to essential service providers such as hospitals, transport operators and food companies.