Global meat processing company JBS Foods has confirmed that it paid the equivalent of $US11 million ($14.2 million) to a criminal gang to end a five-day cyber attack that halted its operations around the world last week, including Australia.

Key points:

  • JBS Foods paid the ransom in Bitcoin
  • The company says the gang of cyberattackers are “one of the most specialised and sophisticated cybercriminal groups in the world”
  • One market analyst has described paying the ransom as a “dangerous precedent”

The company said it paid the money to mitigate any unforeseen issues related to the attack and ensure no data was exfiltrated.

“However, we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers.”

A statement from the company highlights the FBI’s assessment that the gang is “one of the most specialised and sophisticated cybercriminal groups in the world”.

The ransom was paid in Bitcoin.

‘A dangerous precedent’

Market analyst Matt Dalgleish from Thomas Elder Markets said he was surprised about the announcement.

“The fact that it’s been fairly widely published that they’ve paid the ransom — I think it does set a dangerous precedent.”

Mr Dalgleish believes the rise of cryptocurrency is part of the reason why this type of cyber attack is occurring more frequently.

“In the past, it was much harder to get the money paid, whether it was in cash or into an account,” he said.

US statistics showed 10 companies paid between $US300,000 to $US10 million to get back online in 2020, according to analyst Simon Quilty.

“There is more made out of cyber attacks than the global car industry,” he said.

Cyber attack causes Australian lay-off

The five-day shutdown threatened Australia’s meat supply chain, with temporary staff lay-offs at some of the company’s plants and reports from farmers that their shipments of livestock were cancelled.

However, Australian farmers have been largely able to ride through the shutdown.

The attack and subsequent shutdown did not affect livestock prices.

In fact, meat prices in Australia hit a record high yesterday with the Eastern Young Cattle indicator reaching 912 cents a kilogram.

Demand for protein globally from China is keeping prices up as the country recovers from a massive hit to its pork industry from African swine fever (ASF).

The Philippines has also been affected by ASF and is importing more beef from Australia as a result.

In Argentina, a major competitor for Australia in global beef markets, exports have been suspended.

The huge demand for beef was pushing prices too high for the country’s own domestic consumption.

Global meat company pays hackers $14.2m to end week-long cyber attack
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