JBS reportedly paid $11 million ransom payment in Bitcoin

© Reuters

By Samuel Indyk – JBS USA Holdings (SA:), the meat supplier that was subject to a ransomware attack last week, paid an $11mln ransom to the hackers using Bitcoin.

The cyber-attack, which temporarily put a halt to around 20% of US meat supply, affected the majority of the company’s meat plants.

The Wall Street Journal first reported details of the ransom payment, citing JBS USA Chief Executive Andre Nogueira.

“It was very painful to pay the criminals, but we did the right thing for our customers,” Nogueira told the WSJ.

Nogueira also said that the payment was to prevent further disruption and limit the potential impact on restaurants, grocery stores and farmers, while adding that they payment was made after the majority of plants were back up and running.

Bitcoin as payment

The news that was used to pay the ransom will continue to draw attention to the role cryptocurrencies have in facilitating illicit activity.

Last month, the operators of the Colonial Pipeline announced they had paid around $5mln in Bitcoin to cyber attackers who brought the gasoline pipeline offline.

However, it was later discovered that the US authorities had recovered some of the ransom which come were citing as a reason for the sell-off in cryptocurrencies at the start of the week.

The reasoning was flimsy at best, but some analysts said that it may be related to concerns over anonymity and security of the Bitcoin network, which had been touted as one of its strengths.

According to a court document, the FBI accessed the private key for a Bitcoin wallet that contained much of the Bitcoin paid to the Colonial hackers.

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The use of cryptocurrencies by cyber criminals has been used to suggest more regulation is coming in an attempt to stop cryptocurrencies being used for illicit behaviour.

In a speech this weekend, US President Biden is expected to put anti-corruption at the forefront of his foreign policy agenda, with some focus on cryptocurrencies and how they enable criminal activities.

Nevertheless, there is nothing to suggest that the Biden administration is going to follow China’s route and ban cryptocurrencies altogether.

At 14:43BST, Bitcoin trades around $37,800, up around 7.7% in the last 24 hours. 

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