JBS, the world’s largest meat supplier, has shut down computer systems and temporarily laid off thousands of employees after suffering a cyber-attack on its Australian and North American systems.

The company stood down up to 7,000 workers in Australia and has not indicated when it will be able to resume processing cattle, pigs and sheep at its 47 plants across the country, according to media reports.

JBS of Brazil said it took immediate action, including notifying authorities, when it discovered on 30 May it was the subject of an organised cyber-attack affecting servers supporting its Australian and Northern American operations.

“The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation,” it added.

“Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”

JBS added that its backup servers were unaffected and it is working with an incident response company to restore its systems as soon as possible.

Matt Journeaux, an official at the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying: “This will impact food production. It just depends on how long the shutdown goes on for.

“JBS exports about 60% of what it processes so some overseas customers could be light,” he said.

Australia’s agricultural minister David Littleproud commented: “We are working with international partners around trying to trace and rectify this cyber-attack, which is a global cyber-attack on [JBS’] operations.”

The meat processing industry uses software and IT systems to trace and sort animals, as well as to keep records to meet regulatory standards. 

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