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Saudi Arabia was hacked again—in a major way—two weeks ago, destroying computers at six critical organizations in the country, according to Saudi news agency, SPA, who reported the incident just this week.
The Saudi aviation regulator, The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) was one of the targets—Saudi Arabia would not identify the other five targets.
The cyber attackers used a variant of the Shamoon virus, which is the same virus that wiped the hard drives at Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil giant, Saudi Aramco, back in 2012. For that incident, the virus wiped clean any computer in its wake, and replaced every file it came in contact with, with an image of a burning American flag. The incident was claimed by The Cutting Sword of Justice, which accused the “Al-Saud” regime of being corrupt and sponsoring “such oppressive measures by using Muslims oil resources.”
This time around, no one has taken responsibility for the incident.
The most recent attack, which began not even two weeks prior to this week’s OPEC meeting, wiped hard drives just like in 2012, but this time, the files were callously replaced by a well-known and tragic photo of the three-year-old refugee who drowned after his family tried to cross the Agean Sea from Turkey to Greece in 2015.
Saudi Arabia is still investigating the attack, but it has said that the digital evidence so far looks like it originated from Iran. Saudi Arabia and Iran have been rivals in the area for a long, long time, competing for oil market share in the latest round of OPEC meetings, and are thought by some to be on a path towards tearing apart the Middle East with their proxy wars.
The attack left many organizations in disarray, bringing critical operations at the GACA to a halt for several days.
Saudi sources did not identify the other organizations that were attacked, but according to Bloomberg, “extensive damage occurred at four of the entities.”
Iran has long been thought to pose a serious cyber-security threat to the United States, most famously after the 2012 US bank hack, whichwent down as the biggest bank hack in US history. According to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the hackers in that incident were working on behalf of the Iranian government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a hard-line force in Iran.
It was the first time a foreign nation-state had been called out on the carpet for supporting hackers who had attacked US infrastructure.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for US-based Divergente LLC consulting firm, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.