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Is This Cyber Attack An Indirect Hit At Saudi Aramco?

Italy’s oil services group Saipem has said that the cyber attack that hit its servers in the Middle East earlier this week is a variant of the notorious Shamoon malware that was used in a crippling attack on Saudi Aramco in 2012, which raises questions over whether the attack on Saipem was an indirect cyber breach targeting the Saudi oil giant—Saipem’s biggest customer.

“The cyber attack hit servers based in the Middle East, India, Aberdeen and, in a limited way, Italy through a variant of Shamoon malware,” Saipem said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Monday, when Saipem first reported that it had suffered a cyber attack, Saipem’s head of digital and innovation, Mauro Piasere, told Reuters that Saipem’s servers in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait had been attacked and the attack originated in Chennai, India.

On Wednesday, Piasere told Reuters that Saipem didn’t know who was responsible for the cyber attack.

Adam Meyers, vice president at U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, told Reuters, however, that he believed Iran was responsible for the attack because early technical scrutiny showed that the new Shamoon malware variant had similarities to the 2012 attack, which security experts widely believe was perpetrated by people working for the Iranian government. 

Just as news broke about Saipem’s servers in the Middle East being targeted, reports emerged that a variant of the Shamoon malware is back, Axios reported this week, citing a release from the cybersecurity unit of Alphabet, Chronicle. According to the Chronicle release, the company had detected a file infected with Shamoon in its database VirusTotal.

The malware, Chronicle said, was uploaded from Italy and is different from the previous two variants. Those moved through networks via pre-programmed credentials while this one stays on the computer it is installed on first. There is no command and control infrastructure that would allow the attackers to communicate with the virus, and what the virus does this time is encrypt all files irreversibly rather than replacing them with politically significant images, Axios reports.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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