It’s a plot line straight out of a summer blockbuster: a malicious virus taking down the computer network of a global oil giant.
Two weeks ago, it really did happen.
The attack took place on August 15. The target: Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer owned by the country’s ruling Al-Saud family. Some 30,000 computers—about three-quarters of the company’s PCs—were hit by a virus.
A group of hackers calling itself Cutting Sword of Justice took credit for the attack the same day Saudi Aramco started to experience network problems. In a statement posted on Pastebin, the group said Aramco was targeted because it is “the largest financial source for [the] al-Saud regime,” which supports “crimes and atrocities” against people in Syria, Egypt and other neighboring countries.
The New York Times reports that the virus replaced important data on the affected computers and with an image of a burning American flag, and considers this “the first significant use of malware” by hacktivists, given the level of malice that was intended.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Khalid al-Falih, Aramco’s chief executive, said that the virus had been purged and network services were restored. The breach didn’t affect oil exploration and exploration.