Meat producer JBS says expects most plants working Wednesday

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FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2020 file photo, a worker heads into the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo. A weekend ransomware attack on the worlds largest meat company is disrupting production around the world just weeks after a similar incident shut down a U.S. oil pipeline. The White House confirms that Brazil-based meat processor JBS SA notified the U.S. government Sunday, May 30, 2021, of a ransom demand from a criminal organization likely based in Russia. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

CANBERRA – The world’s largest meat processing company is getting back online after production around the world was disrupted by a cyberattack just weeks after a similar incident shut down a U.S. oil pipeline.

Brazil’s JBS SA said late Tuesday that it had made “significant progress” in dealing with the cyberattack and expected the “vast majority” of its plants to be operating on Wednesday.

“Our systems are coming back online and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat,” Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA, said in a statement.

Earlier, the White House said JBS had notified the U.S. of a ransom demand from a criminal organization likely based in Russia. White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the White House and the Department of Agriculture have been in touch with the company several times this week.

JBS is the second-largest producer of beef, pork and chicken in the U.S. If it were to shut down for even one day, the U.S. would lose almost a quarter of its beef-processing capacity, or the equivalent of 20,000 beef cows, according to Trey Malone, an assistant professor of agriculture at Michigan State University.

The closures reflect the reality that modern meat processing plants are heavily automated, for both food- and worker-safety reasons. Computers collect data at multiple stages of the production process, and orders, billing, shipping and other functions are all electronic.

JBS, which has not stated publicly that the attack was ransomware, said the cyberattack affected servers supporting its operations in North America and Australia. Backup servers weren’t affected and it said it was not aware of any customer, supplier or employee data being compromised.

JBS plants in Australia resumed limited operations as of Wednesday in New South Wales and Victoria states, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said. The company hoped to resume work in Queensland state on Thursday, he said.