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Hackers demand $50m from Saudi Aramco following 1 terabyte data leak

27 July 2021

Saudi Aramco has confirmed that company data has been leaked after cyber criminals demanded $50 million (£36.5m) in cryptocurrency from the oil major. Aramco said in a statement that there was an indirect release of a limited amount of data which was held by third-party contractors. The company’s own systems were not breached, and the leak has had no impact on operations, it said.

Ras Tanura Port - Image: Saudi Aramco
Ras Tanura Port - Image: Saudi Aramco

According to reports, around 1 terabyte of data is being held ransom with Saudi Aramco being offered the chance to have it all deleted if it pays the $50 million ransom. The incident has again raised concerns about the global oil and gas industry’s attitude towards cyber security.

In May, US pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline was hit by a cyber attack which led to the shut down of its entire network. The pipeline network transports around 2.5 million barrels of gasoline per day – around 45% of the US East Coast’s gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Colonial paid a $4.4 million ransom fee in the hours following the attack, before the US Department of Justice recovered around $2 million in June.

Saudi Aramco has not said whether the third-party contractor was affected by the data leak or what method the hackers used to gain access to it.

Aramco has been targeted before by cyber attack. In 2012, the oil major was hit by a virus that destroyed around 30,000 computers in the space of a few hours. Government officials did not say who conducted the attack, but did say it originated from “several foreign countries”.

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