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06.02.21

Ransomware disrupts another important U.S. industry: Meat processing

BY Jason C. Kravitz

A ransomware attack on Brazil-based JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, forced the shutdown of nine beef plants in the U.S. earlier in the week and also affected production at poultry and pork plants, according to the New York Times. The NYT reports that JBS accounts for 20% of the daily U.S. cattle harvest. While production is expected to resume on Wednesday, the episode could impact wholesale beef prices and, ultimately, prices paid by consumers. The breach is reportedly being investigated by the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

This cyberattack follows on the heels of the hack on Colonial Pipeline, which severely disrupted the supply of gas to a large swath of the East Coast, triggering shortages and surging prices. While Colonial Pipeline acknowledged paying $4.4 million to recover its data from the hackers, a group called DarkSide, it is not yet known whether JBS had made a similar decision.

Ransomware attacks continue to surge throughout the world, and no industry is immune. While no one can predict the next industry to be targeted, the frequency of these incidents underscores the importance and urgency of every company—even those in decidedly unglamorous industries—taking steps to harden their network defenses and to develop disaster recovery plans. Relying on “what are the odds?” is proving to be a dangerous strategy.

There are many legal considerations companies should be mindful of to prepare themselves for the possibility of a ransomware attack, and legal counsel should play an integral role in any response taken in the event of an attack.

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Jason C. Kravitz

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