The Russians were at it again over the weekend, although not necessarily the Russian government.
The world’s largest meat processing company JBS SA got hit with ransomware, affecting meat processing at many of its US and Australian plants. But experts and non-experts are saying the incident exposed vulnerabilities in computerized operations of many industries, and more attacks can be expected.
Ransomware is a virus program that is planted in a company’s operating systems that shuts it down. A ransom then is demanded before the offenders will unlock the system. The system is very complex and difficult to unlock without paying the ransom. Time, money and even lives can be at stake, especially when hospitals are hit.
RUSSIAN-SPEAKING GANG INVOLVED
In the latest attack, National Public Radio quoted the FBI as attributing the attack on JBS to REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months.
Since JBS is getting its systems back on line, there is no word on whether the firm paid any ransom.
NPR said REvil had not posted anything related to the hack on its dark web site, but this wasn’t 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,” NPR said.
US AGRICULTURE VULNERABLE
NPR said a REvil representative who goes by the handle “UNKN” said in an October online interview that the agriculture sector would be a main target for the syndicate. REvil also threatened to auction off sensitive stolen data from victims who refused to pay.
NPR quoted ransomware expert Allan Liska of the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future saying at least 40 food companies have been targeted by ransomware gangs over the last year. Liska also told NPR that food companies are not very cyber secure.
In this case, market analysts generally have said that a couple of days with a crippled JBS may not make a huge difference to meat markets or to consumer budgets. It’s when such attacks go on for an extended period of time that problems occur.
Food and manufacturing industries are so tied up with just-in-time deliveries of their orders that any disruption is a headache, and a long disruption can cause major distortions to their industries.
The whole world is like this with manufacturers and other end users disposing of expensive warehouse space and pushing the inventory responsibility off onto someone else.
That works very well when the whole system is well oiled, but a hiccup can be a major problem when something is missing.
CATTLE, BEEF RECAP
Fed cattle traded this week at $119.50 to $120 per cwt on a live basis, steady to up $1.50 from last week. Dressed-basis trading was at $190 to $191 per cwt, steady to up $2.
The USDA choice cutout Thursday was up $0.39 per cwt at $340.55, while select was up $1.28 at $313.16. The choice/select spread narrowed to $27.39 from $28.28 with 118 loads of fabricated product and 20 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.
The USDA reported Thursday that basis bids for corn from livestock feeding operations in the Southern Plains were unchanged at $1.12 to $1.19 a bushel over the Jul futures and for southwest Kansas were unchanged at $0.70 over Jul, which settled at $6.62 a bushel, down $0.13.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $136.65 per cwt up $0.15. This compares with Thursday’s Aug contract settlement of $152.95 per cwt, up $0.62.