Saudi Aramco reports sharp rise in attempted cyber attacks

Saudi Arabia government ministries and petrochem companies targets of frequent cyber attacks

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Aramco is seen as security personnel stand before the start of a press conference by Aramco at the Plaza Conference Center in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

Saudi Aramco has had an increase in cyber-attack attempts since the last three months of 2019, which the company has successfully foiled, a chief security officer at the oil giant said on Thursday.

"Overall there is definitely an increase in the attempts of attacks and we are very successful in preventing these attacks at the earliest stage possible," Khalid Al Harbi told Reuters.

"The pattern of the attacks is cyclical and we are seeing that the magnitude is increasing. I would suspect that this will continue to be a trend."

Saudi Arabia has been the target of frequent cyber attacks, including the "Shamoon" virus, which cripples computers by wiping their disks.

It has hit government ministries and petrochemical companies, with the latest attack being in 2017.

Aramco, which pumps 10 per cent of global oil supply, experienced its largest cyber attack in August 2012, when the Shamoon virus damaged about 30,000 computers.

It was aimed at stopping oil and gas production at the biggest Opec exporter.

Aramco's facilities were also attacked in September by drone and missile strikes that temporarily shut down 5.7 million barrels a day of output, or more than 5 per cent of global oil supply.

The US blamed Iran for the attack, which Tehran denies.

Mr Harbi said there had also been attempts to infiltrate Aramco through Emotet, malware used globally, but it was successfully prevented.

The malware has affected other small organisations in Saudi Arabia, he said.

Mr Harbi said that identifying the source of the cyber attacks was the most difficult aspect of cyber security.

In 2017, Saudi Arabian security officials said that the country was one of the targets in a wide-ranging cyber spying campaign against five Middle East nations and countries outside the region.

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