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World's largest oil company Saudi Aramco victim of network hack

A group of hackers has claimed responsibility for an audacious attack on the world’s largest oil company, Saudi Aramco.

The financial powerhouse, owned by the Saudi government, confirmed its system had been compromised via a statement on its Facebook page. A company official reported that the firm had now “isolated all its electronic systems from outside access as an early precautionary measure that was taken following a sudden disruption that affected some of the sectors of its electronic network.”

It continued, “The disruption was suspected to be the result of a virus that had infected personal workstations without affecting the primary components of the network.”

With tensions high in the Middle East and a number of regimes coming under increased pressure, an organisation known as the Arab Youth Group has said it launched the attack “in order to warn the Saudi rulers," who it describes as "traitors" due to their collusion with Israel and the US.

The group’s translated message posted on claimed the hack had, “Targeted Administrable structures and substructures of Aramco and Also the Stock Exchange of Saudi Arabia [sic]” and it promised “more severe action” if “the rulers of Saudi Arabia continue to betray the nation.”

But the attack has seemingly failed to ruffle the feathers of the oil company – worth an estimated $781 billion (£497 billion) in 2005. The Aramco official claimed “the interruption has had no impact whatsoever on any of the company’s production operations,” and said its network was expected to resume normal service soon.

The incident is the latest in a series of attacks targeting high-order establishments in the Middle East, but this hack evidently lacked the impact and sophistication of the allegedly state-sponsored Flame and Gauss malware that have recently drawn attention. These ”cyber-espionage toolkits,” both discovered by security firm Kaspersky Lab, have caused problems to electronic infrastructure all over the region.

Flame, which focussed heavily on disrupting Iran’s nuclear programme, was attributed to the work of Israel and the US. Gauss was only uncovered last week, and Kaspersky has called for assistance in efforts to break its complex encryption.