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Security & privacy

Meat prices at record levels: Will the latest cyberattack send them even higher?

Shoppers braced for gas shortages after cybercriminals targeted one of America’s biggest fuel pipeline operators last month. After Colonial Pipeline shut down, many people worried about skyrocketing gas prices. Tap or click for details on this historic cyberattack.

Now cybercriminals attacked yet another critical sector: the meat industry. More specifically, they went after JBS USA, the world’s largest meat supplier. The Brazil-based powerhouse produces factory processed pork, beef and chicken.

If you’re planning any hearty dinner this weekend, you’d best buy up your ingredients at the supermarket now. Wait too long and it may be more expensive for that prime rib. Here’s the full story.

Here’s the backstory

It seems like no industry is safe from ransomware attacks. Schools, businesses and even hospitals aren’t safe. In 2020, ransomware hit American hospitals, which were already struggling amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The Colonial Pipeline breach made headlines around the country, but it looks like JBS USA didn’t learn from the fuel supplier’s mistakes. On Monday, the company said an organized cyberattack affected some of its North American IT servers.

As a result, JBS USA immediately suspended the affected systems and notified authorities. More importantly, it shut down all of its beef plants on Tuesday, according to the worker’s union representing over 25,000 meatpackers with the company.

It’s good to remember that corporations aren’t the only targets for ransomware. People like you are also at risk of thieves encrypting your important files. That’s why we put together some tips that can stop you from becoming a victim. Tap or click here for five ways to protect yourself from ransomware.

Where’s the beef? Here’s the state of the meat industry now

On the bright side, JBS USA resumed most of its production on Wednesday. It also exposed the guilty party to the U.S. government: a ransomware gang named REvil, suspected of being based in Russia.

As of Wednesday, JBS hadn’t said how much ransom the gang demanded. (We also don’t know if it paid or not.) JBS also said its backup servers weren’t affected. Customer, supplier and employee data seemed to be safe as well, according to AP News.

Although the beef plant shutdown only lasted a day, industry analysts say the disruption has had a notable impact. Reuters broke down the data:

U.S. meatpackers slaughtered 94,000 cattle on Tuesday, down 22% from a week earlier and 18% from a year earlier, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pork processors slaughtered 390,000 hogs, down 20% from a week ago and 7% from a year ago.

Tom Polansek and Jeff Mason, “U.S. says ransomware attack on meatpacker JBS likely from Russia

Since fewer animals are being slaughtered, we can expect meat prices to jump. This shortage affects everyone — even those who don’t buy and cook their own meat. McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants that need huge amounts of patties will see an immediate impact. That means your quarter pounder could cost an extra quarter!

One thing’s for sure: Companies need to strengthen their security systems. Otherwise, they’ll be scrambling for solutions in the worst-case scenario — and they might lose millions of dollars in the process. Tap or click here to find out what to do if you’re attacked by ransomware.

Remember, bad faith actors can encrypt your devices and hold your entire digital world for ransom. If you don’t have strong protections in place, you’re dead meat.

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