Saudi Aramco faces $50 million in cyber blackmail due to data leakage


Saudi Aramco stock

The Saudi Arabian oil giant admitted on Wednesday that the leaked data from the company — the files — appears to be being used in an attempt to blackmail a $50 million ransom.
Image credit: Agence France-Presse

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s state oil giant acknowledged on Wednesday that leaked data from the company – files now apparently used in a cyber-extortion attempt involving a $50 million ransom demand – likely came from one of its contractors.

The Saudi Arabian Oil Company, better known as Saudi Aramco, told the Associated Press that it “recently became aware of the indirect release of a limited amount of company data held by third-party contractors”.

The oil company did not say which contractor found itself harmed, nor whether that contractor was hacked or if the information might have been leaked in another way.

Aramco said: “We confirm that the data release was not due to a breach of our systems, and has no impact on our operations, and the company continues to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture.”

One of the pages accessed by the AP on the darknet – a part of the Internet hosted within an encrypted network and only accessible through specialized tools to provide anonymity – claimed that the extortionist held 1 TB of Aramco data. terabyte 1000 GB.

The page offered Aramco an opportunity to delete data for $50 million in cryptocurrency, while another counter counted $5 million, likely in an effort to pressure the company. It is not yet clear who is behind the ransom plot.

Aramco has been targeted before with a cyber attack. In 2012, the kingdom’s oil giant found itself affected by the so-called Shamoon computer virus, which deleted hard drives and then displayed an image of a burning American flag on computer screens. The attack forced Aramco to shut down its network and destroyed more than 30,000 computers.

Subsequently, US officials blamed the attack on Iran, whose nuclear enrichment program had just targeted the Stuxnet virus, likely of American and Israeli manufacture.

In 2017, another virus spread across the kingdom and malfunctioned computers at Sadara, a joint venture between Aramco and officials at Dow Chemical in Michigan at the time who warned it could be another version of Shamoon.

Aramco’s silver share, which is publicly traded on the Riyadh Stock Exchange, amounted to 34.90 riyals, or $9.30, after trading stopped last week on the occasion of the Eid al-Adha holiday. This puts the company’s valuation at around $1.8 trillion, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world.

More to track …
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