JBS, one of the world's biggest meat processors, has paid bitcoin worth $11m in ransom to hackers to prevent any further disruption after a paralysing cyber attack believed to have originated in Russia.

Hackers targeted the computer systems of the Brazil-based firm last week, impacting production and operations in the United States, Australia and Canada, and issued a ransom demand.

The company's US subsidiary said it had paid the equivalent of $11m (€9m) to the attackers.

"This was a very difficult decision to make for our company and for me personally," said Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA.

"However, we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers."

The company said it made the payment "to mitigate any unforeseen issues related to the attack and ensure no data was exfiltrated."

Mr Nogueira told the Wall Street Journal that the ransom was paid in bitcoin.

The JBS hack was the second major ransomware attack on a major US entity in recent weeks.

A cyber attack last month forced the temporary shutdown of the huge Colonial fuel pipeline network in the eastern US, and sparked panic buying in some states.

Colonial paid $4.4 million in ransom to Russia-based group DarkSide to regain control and restore operations.

The US Justice Department later recovered $2.3 million in bitcoin, tracking the ransom payment as it moved through multiple anonymous transfers and eventually seizing it from a cryptocurrency wallet.

The White House has not blamed the Kremlin directly for the recent ransomware attacks, only suggesting that criminal groups are operating from inside Russia.

However, President Joe Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki said "responsible states do not harbour" cybercriminals.

Cybersecurity experts say many independent ransomware extortionists appear to be located in Russia or former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe.

The attacks have grown so frequent that the issue has been elevated in seriousness in the US Justice Department to the level of terror attacks.

Recent ransomware targets include local governments, hospitals, insurers, and even a ferry service in Massachusetts.

At least $18bn was paid to ransomware attackers last year, according to the security firm Emsisoft.

It has found "tens of thousands" of victims this year.