“Now even our meat is being cyberattacked,” a Bloomberg Opinion piece lamented.
No. Oh, please God no. Anything but the meat.
The linked post is actually worth reading. It’s penned in a sarcastic cadence and it’s good for (several) laughs.
But some folks don’t think the JBS hack which, according to some reports, briefly knocked out at least 20% of America’s beef capacity, was all that funny. Thankfully for the meatoholics among you, the world’s largest producer said the “vast majority” of its facilities will be operational starting Wednesday.
REvil, or Sodinokibi, a hacking group with links to Russia, was apparently responsible. A separate Bloomberg piece published Wednesday described the fleeting chaos: “The shutdowns upended agricultural markets and raised concerns about food security as hackers increasingly target critical infrastructure.”
Forgive me, but this borders on the absurd. I realize everyone needs computers and that large, complex enterprises operating across borders can’t function without sophisticated networks. I also understand that it’s not just logistics. I imagine everything from turning on the lights to running conveyor belts to human resources management is all conducted on a network.
But people were successfully producing beef and pork at scale long before the advent of computers. Sure, we’re all vulnerable to malicious cyber activity in the modern world. Do we need to be this vulnerable, though? Should it be the case that something as ostensibly straightforward as killing cows and packaging their flesh is amenable to being hijacked remotely by Russian hackers?
Folks cited industry concentration on Wednesday. And maybe that’s part of the problem. Diversifying production via a large group of much smaller suppliers would, by definition, make the supply chain more resilient to problems at one supplier, but perhaps just as importantly, I imagine at least some small suppliers might be more resilient to these kinds of tactics by virtue of not needing to rely on much that’s “hackable” (if you will).
I don’t know. The world clearly has a supply chain problem. And it’s multi-faceted. It can’t be fixed with supply chain nationalism. Not when foreign hackers can commandeer a crucial fuel pipeline from thousands of miles away and demand untraceable ransom payments in cryptocurrency.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow and Washington are in “direct contact” about the JBS hack. Not surprisingly, the Kremlin claimed it doesn’t know anything about the incident. Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday it’s “premature” to speculate on any kind of “cooperation” between Russia and the US when it comes to cybersecurity. [Insert Trump joke of your choice.]
“JBS USA and Pilgrim’s [Pride] are a critical part of the food supply chain and we recognize our responsibility to our team members, producers and consumers to resume operations as soon as possible,” Andre Nogueira, JBS USA CEO, said. “Our systems are coming back online and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat,” Nogueira added, noting that the company has “cybersecurity plans in place to address these types of issues and we are successfully executing those plans.”
When it comes to Russia’s culpability, I’d note that apologists for Putin habitually dance around common sense (and not just on this issue either). It’s about decorum. Russia isn’t North Korea. But it may as well be when it comes to the obstinance on display in the face of flagrant examples of state-tolerated (if not state-sponsored) maliciousness.
This long ago crossed the threshold into the ridiculous. Putin is a cartoon villain. The Kremlin won’t take any kind of responsibility for anything, even when what’s tacitly being asked is that Moscow release some totally nebulous statement pledging to punish bad actors operating from Russia.
China makes those kinds of vacuous proclamations all the time, not because Xi intends to be a good international citizen, but because he recognizes that vacuous pledges are required of nations that want to be taken seriously. The US makes dozens of vacuous pledges spanning all manner of subjects from climate to human rights every, single week. America rarely keeps any of the promises inherent in those pledges, but that’s not the point. Again, it’s about decorum. Everyone’s a bad actor, the US included. But parading your own nefariousness is self-defeating for all but the most desperate states.
In a testament to this dynamic, Peskov on Wednesday said “I don’t know anything about this,” when asked about the JBS hack. “If the Americans bring any accusations, clearly, they will be processed in a rather rapid manner.” Like a cow scheduled for slaughter, I guess. At a plant that’s actually working.
There’s a difference between denying the substance of the accusations (as Beijing furiously does whenever anyone uses the word “genocide” in the same sentence as “Xinjiang”) and playing the role of the panting Rottweiler who pretends to have no idea what happened to the living room when you walk in the front door and find your couch destroyed.
“These types of attacks are more normal than we think,” Dalmo Veras, chief executive of a Brazilian cyber security group said, in remarks to FT. “The worst ones are those that we don’t even know about.”
Right. But the ones we do (know about) almost always emanate from one of four places: Russia, Iran, China or North Korea. Two of those are pariah states. One of them is an oligarchic, rickety remnant of a bipolarity that died decades ago. The other one is China.