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A ransomware attack caused administrative operations at Mexico’s Pemex to grind to a halt on Monday, but work was restored soon after, Reuters has reported, citing sources from the company. Oil production and storage had not been affected.
Pemex denied the attack, saying it was only an attempt at attacking its system and that it had affected less than 5 percent of computers. Yet a Bloomberg report said some employees of the company had been told not to try and access the Pemex computer system on Monday.
The report cited a spokeswoman for the company, who said the so-called hack attack was just a rumor that followed an employee notice regarding the strengthening of Pemex’s cybersecurity system.
Unnamed sources told Reuters and Bloomberg that the attack—or attempted attack—had used the Ryuk ransomware, which specifically targets companies with annual revenues of between $500 million and $1 billion. The Ryuk ransomware gets dropped into a network by another malware and soon after begins encrypting files. Yet the encryption begins with a delay, which gives the attackers time to study their target and how much money they could extort from it.
“We are taking measures at the national level to fight RYUK ransomware, which is affecting various Pemex servers in the country,” one company official told Reuters on Sunday.
The news highlights the dark side of the oil industry’s embracing of digital technology. The higher the reliance on such technology, the bigger a target a company becomes. For the energy industry, however, the threat is even bigger than for companies of comparable size in other industries: oil and gas are commodities of strategic importance for every country, and Mexico is no exception.
Pemex apparently managed to react swiftly to the attack and neutralize it, which suggests the company is prepared for such attacks.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.