Hackers Demand $5 Million Ransom from Saudi Aramco

The world's largest and most valuable oil producer is at risk due to a data leak.
Sarah Marquart
Oil pumpjack south of Midland, TexasEric Kounce/Wikimedia

The Saudi Arabian Oil Company, also known as Saudi Aramco, is the world's largest and most valuable oil producer. In 2020, Aramco’s average hydrocarbon production was 12.4 million barrels per day of oil equivalent, including 9.2 million barrels per day of crude oil.

Now, this oil giant is at risk, as one terabyte of company data has leaked from a contractor – and no one knows who is behind it. "We confirm that the release of data was not due to a breach of our systems, has no impact on our operations and the company continues to maintain a robust cybersecurity posture," Aramco told the BBC

The data is being held for ransom in exchange for $50 million in a cryptocurrency called Monero, according to a post on the dark web. The post also offered prospective buyers the chance to purchase the data for a similar price. 

This data breach comes on the heels of the May 2021 ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline in the U.S., which resulted in a days-long shutdown and fuel shortage. Unfortunately, Aramco is no stranger to these types of attacks. In 2012, the company's computer network was hit by the "Shamoon" virus, which erased three-quarters of the company's data and replaced it with an image of a burning American flag. The company was forced to shut down its internal corporate network to keep the virus from spreading. 

Many experts believe that these types of industries are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks, but aren't properly investing in the right protection. According to the World Economic Forum, 80 percent of senior cybersecurity leaders see ransomware as a dangerous growing threat. The Ransomware Task Force argues "ransomware has become a serious national security threat and public health and safety concern."

Establishing comprehensive cybersecurity models will be key as these oil giants move forward and pick up the pieces. 

 

 

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