A rash of recent Ransomware attacks on vital U.S. infrastructure has led to the FBI and Department of Justice (DoJ) to treat the cyberattack as a terrorist threat. Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, compared to the U.S. government’s fight against ransomware to the threats facing the United States after 9/11, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. The cyber attack on JBS, the world’s largest meat packing conglomerate, affected the food supply chain in the United States as well as meat packing plants in Australia.
The JBS cyber attack came weeks after an ransomware hit Colonial Pipeline, the largest refined-fuel pipeline operator in the country, caused delays at petrol stations across the east coast of America. A hacker group linked to organised crime in Russia forced the pipeline to stop pumping for days before the Colonial Pipeline agreed to pay $4.4 million to regain access to its computers. A key feature of Ransomware is the encryption of a computer or device’ files or entire drive in which the decryption key is used as a bargaining chip and given back when the ransom is paid.
Queensland Meatworker’s Union says up 4,000 workers might lose a weeks pay due to Ransomware Attack
JBS is also Australia’s largest meat and food processing company and operates 47 facilities across the country. These facilities include abattoirs, feedlots and meat packing plants, employing around 11,000 people. That a Ransomware attack on a Brazilian meat processing company in the United States can force thousands of Australians out of work shows how interconnected the modern world is and its vulnerabilities to Ransomware.
The U.S. government’s former top cybersecurity official Chris Krebs, who was in charge of protecting the 2020 election from misinformation campaigns and cyberattacks on electoral infrastructure, called the proliferation of ransomware a “global pandemic”. Matt Journeaux from the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, called it a “kick in the guts” for workers. The Australian staff learned about the ransomware attack when they turned away frm their workplaces on Monday. The Australian Federal Police meanwhile were working with JBS Australia to resolve the cyberattack.
“The supply chains, logistics, and transportation that keep our society moving, are especially vulnerable to ransomware,” said cybersecurity threat analyst John Hultquist, “attacks on choke points can have outsized effects and encourage hasty payments.”