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JBS plant in Louisville’s operations disrupted by ransomware attack

Published: Jun. 2, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - JBS, the world’s largest meatpacking company, has been the target of a ransomware attack that hits close to home. JBS’s Louisville facility in Butchertown employs 1,200 people.

“(The) incentive to pay up is very high,” Adrian Lauf, a UofL computer science and engineering professor, said. “In other words, we can get our operations back if we pay. Those are the critical pain points that these kinds of attackers may exploit.”

JBS notified United States authorities of a ransom demand from a criminal organization likely based in Russia called REvil. There is no indication the company paid a ransom but other previously targeted companies have.

On Wednesday, JBS resumed operations.

“The fact that people are paying these ransoms, everything from hospital networks to large pipelines are paying these ransoms,” Lauf said. “And that gives it a green light for others to kind of follow along and have the same targets.”

JBS operates more than 150 plants in 15 countries.

The first local sign that something was wrong came Monday. A JBS memo notified Butchertown workers that two departments would start three hours late.

On Wednesday, disruptions continued. Workers in 11 different departments were told to come to work two hours later than normal.

Lauf said attacks on companies providing vital services will likely increase as long as a shortage exists in cybersecurity professionals.

“This shortage is what is in part catching us unprepared,” he said. “There are so many jobs going un-filled that there are so many positions that should exist at various companies, in the business community where a company should be hiring cybersecurity professionals if not full time, part time.”

The attack comes just weeks after cybercriminals demanded and received payment by shutting down the Colonial Pipeline. That resulted in gasoline shortages and higher prices at the pumps.

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