Saudi Aramco, are we ready for an escalation of cyber attacks?

Pierluigi Paganini August 21, 2012

Last week it has been registered a serious cyber attack against one of the world’s largest energy companies, the Saudi Aramco, and a group named the Arab Youth Group has claimed responsibility for the event.

The group posted a message on Pastebin, declaring that the attack has been carried out to protest against the Saudi government and its policy of support to Israel and the United States.

“These betrayals are done with oil wealth of the Arab nation,”

“severe action” against companies such as Aramco.

I decide to write on the attacks because it represents a case study for the impact that a cyber attack could have on private companies and what is also interesting is the total anonymity on the real authors of the event. No one know the hacker groups, they could be competitors or state sponsored hackers, it’s hard to understand it, but what is interesting is the concomitance with another strange event I described in a past post, the discovery of the malware Shamoon that has been used also to attack companies in the energy sector.

When we have spoken of Shamoon we have raised several doubts on its origin and on its real targets, Symantec experts announced the possibility of specific targeted attacks against at least one organization in the energy sector, not identified that firm so far.

Coming back to that attack to Aramco, the company declared that its network was destroyed by a virus that infected machines at the company.

In an official announcement the company declared:

“The company has isolated all its electronic systems from outside access as an early precautionary measure,”

“The disruption was suspected to be the result of a virus that had infected personal workstations without affecting the primary components of the network.”

The company declared that no vital system neither the production have been affected but it’s clear how much dangerous could be similar attacks for a private business.

In many circumstances we have spoken of cyber operations that in a cyber warfare scenarios could hit private businesses that represent anyway critical component for any countries. In my opinion Saudi Aramco is one of them that why it is really difficult to back to the real perpetrators of the attack.

The company has released the usual message to return to normal and reassure the press, but in reality, in these cases, it is easy to face with serious damages that could harm human lives.

Saudi Aramco

“The company employs a series of precautionary procedures and multiple redundant systems within its advanced and complex system that are used to protect its operational and database systems,”

Who own the company?

The energy company is fully owned by the Saudi Arabian government that is known as several “enemies” for political and economic reasons.

Actually, Aramco has provided a few info regarding the status of infected systems, it has not provided any updates on the cyber attack. Two days ago the company announced in a statement to Bloomberg News that the infected systems were isolated.

“The network that runs the company’s major operations is safe and there are no effects whatsoever on production operations,”

Incidents like this are bound to increase, cybercrime, attacks by political groups and governments are appearing with increasing frequency, it is a miracle that so far there has been no loss of life, but in the future, every company and agency need to prepare for such events in order to avoid catastrophic consequences.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Saudi Aramco, Information warfare)

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