This week’s ransomware attack on JBS, the world’s largest meat supplier, has refocused agriculture’s attention on cybersecurity and again raised key economic issues for the Ag and food industries. USDA has contacted several major meat processors, the FBI is investigating, and President Biden has launched a “rapid strategic review.” American Farm Bureau Economist Veronica Nigh said as the pandemic has shown, food production is considered a national security issue, and an economic issue.
“When you’re looking at JBS, which processes about 23% of the beef in the United States, and when they go down, it’s felt pretty immediately.”
Nigh added that USDA estimated there was a 20% decline in cattle slaughter, week over week, which she pointed out is very close to JBS’ market share. She added the Ag industry is doing all it can to head off further cyber-attacks.
“This is obviously an issue that’s affecting not just ag, but the economy at large, as we become more technology-dependent. So, this is certainly something Congress will weigh in on, the administration will weigh in on, and we’ll be there at the table, as well as our other ag partners.”
The Washington Post reports food processing has been a target for ransomware attackers for months. Quoting an intelligence analyst at one cyber firm, the Post reports that “at least 40” attacks “have been publicly reported over the last year.” The weekend attack on JBS follows the ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline that disrupted gas supplies on the East Coast.
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