August 18, 2022

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$5.9 million ransomware assault on farming co-op could trigger meals scarcity


Iowa-based supplier of agriculture companies NEW Cooperative Inc. has been hit by a ransomware assault, forcing it to take its techniques offline. The BlackMatter group that’s behind the assault has put forth a $5.9 million ransom demand. The farming cooperative is seen stating the assault might considerably affect the general public provide of grain, pork, and hen if it can not carry its techniques again on-line.

BlackMatter says it doesn’t hit “critical infrastructure”

Ransomware group BlackMatter has hit NEW Cooperative and is demanding $5.9 million to offer a decryptor, in keeping with screenshots shared on-line by risk intel analysts.

“Your website says you do not attack critical infrastructure. We are critical infrastructure… intertwined with the food supply chain in the US. If we are not able to recover very shortly, there is going to be very very public disruption to the grain, pork, and chicken supply chain,” a NEW Cooperative consultant seems to be telling BlackMatter throughout a non-public negotiation chat.

The farming group says its software program powers about 40 p.c of grain manufacturing and feed schedules of 11 million cattle. And, as such, US federal authorities regulators like CISA could quickly step in ought to the cooperative’s techniques not come again on-line quickly.

BlackMatter responded that it disagreed with the farming group falling inside the “critical infrastructure” class.

A word seen by Ars on BlackMatter’s Tor leak website states the group doesn’t assault hospitals, oil and fuel corporations, non-profit and authorities organizations, and people within the protection sector. Should the group by accident encrypt computer systems belonging to one in every of these organizations, victims can ask for a free decryptor. But, the listing of “critical infrastructure facilities” is proscribed to energy era crops and water remedy amenities, in keeping with BlackMatter’s standards.

BlackMatter claims it doesn't attack critical infrastructure.
Enlarge / BlackMatter claims it would not assault essential infrastructure.

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Victim working with legislation enforcement and safety consultants

NEW Cooperative states it has knowledgeable legislation enforcement and engaged knowledge safety consultants to analyze and remediate the state of affairs.

In the meantime, techniques had been shut all the way down to include the affect of the assault. “NEW Cooperative recently identified a cybersecurity incident that is impacting some of our company’s devices and systems. Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively taken our systems offline to contain the threat, and we can confirm it has been successfully contained,” a NEW Cooperative spokesperson advised BleepingComputer.

Ars additionally observed the cooperative’s SOILMAP challenge is presently unavailable. SOILMAP is an agronomic software program resolution offering soil testing, mapping, and streamlined accounting options to assist suppliers carry larger effectivity to their meals manufacturing course of.

Further conversations shared by cybersecurity intel professional Dmitry Smilyanets between BlackMatter and the sufferer group present the group’s reluctance to work out an answer with NEW Cooperative.

“I am no [sic] threatening you. This is pretty much out of our hands. We can’t control what the regulators and US government does. The impact of this attack will likely be much worse than the pipeline attack for context, and we have no way to control that given the disruption this has already caused,” a NEW Cooperative consultant is seen telling risk actors.

Negotiation chat between NEW Cooperative and BlackMatter ransomware operation.
Enlarge / Negotiation chat between NEW Cooperative and BlackMatter ransomware operation.

This incident has echoes of the cyberattack on the world’s largest meat processor, JBS, that pressured the corporate to pay an $11 million ransom quantity to REvil risk actors.

BlackMatter has beforehand been linked to the DarkSide ransomware group that attacked Colonial Pipeline and disappeared afterward.

“What’s notable about the attack is the company’s insistence that they are critical infrastructure and should therefore be spared as per BlackMatter’s own policy. However, the operators behind BlackMatter disagree with this assessment and are continuing to pursue payment from the victim,” John Shier, senior safety adviser at Sophos, advised Ars. “This assault would be the first to check the new US government policy on reporting assaults towards essential infrastructure to CISA and the Biden administration’s response to such an assault.”





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