Digital Transformation

Energy companies hit by computer viruses

Malicious attacks target computer systems at Aramco and RasGas

Two of the world’s biggest energy producing firms have fallen victim to malicious online attacks designed to take down their computer systems and disrupt the stability of their networks.

Mid-way through August, Saudi Arabian company Aramco revealed that a virus which spread through its servers knocked out 30,000 desktop computers, although plant and machinery operations were not affected.

And in a similar incident, Qatar-based RasGas has now reported that its systems have been taken offline by malware that left the business having to shut down its email and web servers.

According to reports, security experts had put companies in the oil and energy sector on alert after the emergence of a virus called Shamoon, which is designed to target firms in the industry.

While malware is usually intended to weaken a system’s security and leave it exposed to cyber thieves, it seems that these latest attacks are more closely associated with direct assaults on a specific sector.

Rob Rachwald, director of security strategy at Imperva, said on his blog: "The attack on Saudi Aramco is the first significant use of malware in a hacktivist attack. Hacktivists rarely use malware, if other hacktivists jump on this trend it could become very dangerous."

Despite the companies explaining that production has not suffered as a result of the incident, the virus demonstrates how important it is for businesses in all industries to protect their online systems and ensure they have a sufficient disaster recovery plan in place to prevent any breaks in continuity.

Indeed, firms are not only left having to deal with significant financial losses after such events, but there are also the legal implications to consider if people’s sensitive files are exposed.

As such, taking effective data protection measures is a key step for any business as it looks to safeguard its confidential files and the privacy of its clients.