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FBI blames Russia for cyber attack that shut down world's largest meat processor

The FBI attributed the weekend attack on Brazil-based meat processor JBS SA to REvil
Dee-Ann Durbin and Frank Bajak, Associated Press

The FBI has blamed Russia for a cyber attack which shut down the world’s largest meat processing company, with experts saying the vulnerabilities exposed by incident are far from resolved.

The FBI attributed the weekend attack on Brazil-based meat processor JBS SA, where most production had resumed on Wednesday, to REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months.

The FBI said it will work to bring the group to justice and it urged anyone who is the victim of a cyber attack to contact the bureau immediately.

REvil has not posted anything related to the hack on its dark web site, but that is not unusual.

Ransomware syndicates as a rule don’t post about attacks when they are in initial negotiations with victims — or if the victims have paid a ransom.

In October, a REvil representative who goes by the handle UNKN said in an interview published online that the agriculture sector would now be a main target for the syndicate.

REvil also threatened to auction off sensitive stolen data from victims who refused to pay it.

The weekend attack targeted servers supporting JBS’s operations in North America and Australia.

Backup servers were not affected and the company said it was not aware of any customer, supplier or employee data being compromised.

JBS said late on Wednesday that it expects to resume production at all its plants on Thursday and be running at “close to full capacity” across its global operations.

It is not known if JBS paid a ransom. The company hasn’t discussed it in public statements, and did not respond to phone and email messages on Wednesday seeking comment.

The FBI and the White House declined to comment on the ransom.

But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden intends to confront Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, about his nation’s harbouring of ransomware criminals when the two meet in Europe in two weeks.

“I can assure you that we are raising this through the highest levels of the U.S. government,” she said.

“The president certainly believes that President Putin has a role to play in stopping and preventing these attacks.”

While there is no evidence Russia benefits financially from ransomware crime — which has hit health care, education and state and local governments especially hard during the pandemic — US officials say its practitioners have sometimes worked for Kremlin security services.

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