THE White House "threatened to retaliate" after a Russian cyber hack attack shuttered a US food processing plant and another cyber assault previously triggered a fuel crisis.
Joe Biden was all smiles when he was grilled about Vladimir Putin's intentions during a press briefing on Wednesday after the ransomware attacks on the JBS meat processing plant and the Colonial Pipeline.
Asked if he would "retaliate against Russia for this latest ransomware attack," Biden confirmed: "We're looking closely at that issue."
However, the grinning president said "no" when the reporter then asked if he thought Putin was "testing" him as he left the podium.
He could be seen smiling as he walked off the stage today.
Biden's comments come after White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday aboard Air Force One that the JBS hack probably originated in Russia.
“JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization, likely based in Russia,” she said.
“The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter, and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.
“The White House has offered assistance to JBS, and our team and the Department of Agriculture have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day.
“We’re assessing any impacts on supply, and the president has directed the administration to determine what we can do to mitigate any impacts as they may become necessary."
JBS USA was hit with a hack attack on Sunday that was very similar to the methods used by a Russian-based cyber criminal group that shuttered Colonial Pipeline operations for a week.
JBS has been forced to shut down factories across Australia, the United States, and Canada, which handle tens of thousands of cattle every day.
A number of gangs, many of them Russian-speakers, develop the software that encrypts files and then demands payment in cryptocurrency for keys that allow the owners to decipher and use them again.
The hackers then demand additional money not to publish sensitive documents they copied before encrypting.
In addition to diplomatic pressure, the Biden White House is taking steps to regulate cryptocurrency transfers and track where they are going.
The five biggest JBS beef plants in the US — which combined process 22,500 daily — have suspended livestock slaughter following the attack on the company's computer networks.
Those outages alone have wiped out nearly a fifth of America's production.
We're looking closely at that issue.
And operations across Australia — which exports up to 75 per cent of its red meat products — are at a standstill, meaning there is a risk to worldwide supplies.
The company said it was working to resolve Monday's incident but has not indicated the nature of the attack or why meat production is being impacted.
JBS said in a statement: "On Sunday, May 30, JBS USA determined that it was the target of an organized cybersecurity attack, affecting some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems."
Jon Condon from Beef Central fears the chaos could last for weeks.
"At this point, nobody knows," he told ABC Radio Brisbane. "It could be a day, it could be a week, it could be multiple weeks. The longer it goes, the worse the situation in terms of supply and disruption."
He added that McDonald's, as well as supermarkets, will be the most immediately impacted customers due to their need for consistent supply.
JBS controls about 20percent of the slaughtering capacity for US cattle and hogs, according to industry estimates.
Plants impacted by the attack include JBS beef plants in Greeley, Colorado, and Cactus, Texas.
JBS reported the latest incident just a few weeks after a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline — the largest fuel pipeline in the United States —crippled fuel delivery for several days in the US Southeast.
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