White House press secretary says 'responsible states do not harbour ransomware criminals'.
Joe Biden will rebuke Vladimir Putin over the cyber attack on JBS, the world's biggest meat processor, when the two presidents meet later this month, and the US does not rule out retaliating against the perpetrator it suspects is a Russian criminal gang, the White House said on Wednesday.
The São Paulo-headquartered meat company suffered a ransomware attack that forced the closure of much of its North American and Australian operations and halted work for thousands of employees this week. The incident raised fears about the security of the US's food supply.
According to information passed to White House officials by the company, the attack was launched from a known criminal organisation that is probably based in Russia.
JBS on Wednesday restarted most of its North American operations, although at least one shift at its flagship beef plant in Greeley, Colorado was cancelled, according to a union representative.
The White House said the president intended to raise his concerns over the attack with Russia's president during the summit between the two leaders in Geneva on June 16.
"We do expect this to be one of the issues that the president will discuss with the president at the summit," said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, adding "responsible states do not harbour ransomware criminals".
Asked if the US was considering launching its own cyber attack against those it suspects are responsible, Psaki said: "Harbouring criminal entities that are doing harm to the critical infrastructure in the United States is not acceptable. We're not going to stand by. We will raise that and we are not going to take options off the table."
Some US cyber experts have urged the Biden administration to be more aggressive in countering the growing number of ransomware attacks against critical businesses, such as the Colonial fuel pipeline, which was temporarily closed last month by hackers who forced the company to pay a ransom of more than US$4m.
Chris Krebs, the former head of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told the Financial Times earlier this year that the US military should launch its own cyber attacks against suspected ransomware gangs.
The Kremlin responded to the allegations of Russian involvement in the JBS attack by saying that it had no information about who might be behind it, but would respond to any official request for assistance.
"I do not know anything about this," Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesperson, told reporters.
"Certain contacts are being maintained through diplomatic channels . . . If the Americans bring any accusations, clearly, they will be processed in a rather rapid manner."
JBS controls about 20 per cent of meat processing in the US. The cyber attack forced the company to halt operations at its Greeley plant and a facility in Cactus, Texas. It also cancelled shifts at a beef plant in Brooks, Alberta in Canada and multiple facilities in Australia.
The meat-processing industry relies on software and IT systems for tracing and sorting animals, as well as keeping records to meet regulatory standards.
Australian authorities said JBS resumed limited operations at some processing facilities in Victoria and New South Wales on Wednesday and hoped to restart operations in Queensland on Thursday.
Up to 7,000 casual employees in the country remain stood down as a result of the cyber attack but the company is hopeful of beginning a phased return to work over the next 24-48 hours, according to a person with knowledge of the recovery plan.
"JBS have been working with us, the Department of Agriculture, to try and get themselves back up and going, and make sure they have those protocols in place around the quality assurance," said David Littleproud, Australia's minister for agriculture. He added that the government is working with its international partners to hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to account.
Written by: Bryan Harris, Kiran Stacey and Jamie Smyth
© Financial Times