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JBS Attack: Ransomware Evil

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A worker spreads salted meat at a JBS plant in Santana de Parnaiba, Brazil, December 19, 2017. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)

Welcome to the Capital Note, a newsletter about business, finance, and economics. On the menu today: the hackers that halted meat production, institutional investors adapt to new a macro landscape, Dogecoin rallies, and the White House CEA on how to combat cyberattacks. To sign up for the Capital Note, follow this link.

If the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline Co. — which spurred a mea culpa from hacker syndicate DarkSide for “creating problems for society” — represented a kinder, gentler form of cybercrime, yesterday’s attack on Brazil-based beef producer JBS marks a return to normalcy. The shutdown of a quarter of the United States’ beef production is not the work of environmental activists; REvil, the group believed to be responsible for the attack, is among the most belligerent hacker syndicates in the world.

The group, which is based in a former Soviet republic and is said to be harbored by the Russian government, has reportedly collected $100 million in payments by targeting the likes of Donald Trump, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Apple, Inc. REvil’s predecessor, GandCrab, wrote in a 2019 farewell message, “We are a living proof that you can do evil and get off scot-free.” The group is believed to have reconstituted under the name REvil after GandCrab shut down. Despite the new name, the hackers have maintained their core competency in doing evil.

Most recently, REvil breached Taiwan-based Apple supplier Quanta Computer, threatening to leak Apple’s designs if the company did not pay a hefty ransom. After initially leaking some of Apple’s designs, REvil removed the threat from its website. While it is unclear how the extortion attempt was resolved, experts told CNBC that the attack could “presage a new era of emboldened ransomware attackers who are protected by Russian leader Vladimir Putin and empowered to take on the biggest companies in the world.”

Indeed, REvil has escalated the ransomware game in a string of “big game attacks” against multinational corporations including Acer, Pierre Fabre,

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