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FBI warns of cyberattacks on US food plants after a dozen hit by mysterious fires

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials at the Joint Field Office(JFO) Baton Rouge. (Jacinta Quesada/FEMA)
April 25, 2022

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Cyber Division issued a statement last week warning of potential ransomware attacks against the agricultural industry as more than a dozen food processing plants across the United States suffered damage from mysterious fires.

“Cyber actors may perceive [agricultural] cooperatives as lucrative targets with a willingness to pay due to the timesensitive role they play in agricultural production,” the FBI notice warned.

“A significant disruption of grain production could impact the entire food chain, since grain is not only consumed by humans but also used for animal feed,” it added. “In addition, a significant disruption of grain and corn production could impact commodities trading and stocks. An attack that disrupts processing at a protein or dairy facility can quickly result in spoiled products and have cascading effects down to the farm level as animals cannot be processed.”

The FBI’s warning recommended several steps to mitigate cyber threats, including regularly backing up data, implementing a recovery plan, requiring administrative credentials to install software, focusing on cyber security awareness and training, and more.

Last week, an image circulated on social media showing a compilation of news headlines highlighting fires at 18 food processing facilities over the past six months.

Also last week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson highlighted that for the second time in one week, a plane crashed into a food processing plant.

“Food processing plants all over the country seem to be catching fire,” Tucker noted, adding, “So, industrial accidents happen, of course, but this is a lot of industrial accidents at food processing facilities at the same time the president is warning us about food shortages.”

Seattle-based radio host Jason Rantz called the series of food processing plant fires “suspicious.”

“Obviously, when something happens every so often, you obviously hope that there is no significant damage and certainly that no one gets hurt, but you kind of write it off, it’s not that big of a deal, accidents happen,” Rantz said. “But when you’ve got well over a dozen food processing plants and warehouses getting destroyed or seriously damaged over just the last few weeks at a time when the food supply is already vulnerable, it’s obviously going to be suspicious, and it could lead to serious food shortages.”

“That’s why some folks are now wondering — well, number one, what’s going on? You’ve got some people speculating that this might be an intentional way to disrupt the food supply,” Rantz added.

In March, President Joe Biden warned of impending global food shortages that he said would be caused by sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

“With regard to food shortage, yes, we did talk about food shortages. And — and it’s going to be real,” Biden said.