Data-wiping malware strikes Saudi government agencies

Several government bodies and vital installations experience the attack from malware known as Shamoon

Saudi Arabia's government agencies were hit with a cyberattack that security researchers are blaming on a worm-like malware that can wipe computer systems, destroying data.

Several government bodies and vital installations suffered the attack, disrupting their servers, the country's Saudi Press Agency said on Thursday. The transportation sector was among the agencies hit by an actor from outside the country, the press agency said.

Security firms say the attack involved malware called Shamoon or Disttrack that was previously found targeting a Saudi Arabian oil company four years ago. That attack disabled 30,000 computers.  

This latest attack involved the malware acting as a time bomb. Samples of the malicious coding were configured to begin wiping data at 8:45 p.m. local time Nov. 17, the end of the work week in the country, according to security firm Symantec.

“The malware was configured with passwords that appear to have been stolen from the targeted organizations,” Symantec said in a blog post.  “How the attackers obtained the stolen credentials is unknown.”

The Shamoon malware works by spreading across the victim's network and copying itself to new computers. This new variant of the malware uses a system-wiping function that will overwrite a hard disk and replace the data with the image of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea last year.

The malware sample appears to have been, "solely focused on destruction," security firm Palo Alto Networks said.

To gain access to the stolen passwords that the malware used, the hackers behind Shamoon may have sent phishing emails to their targets, tricking them into giving up their credentials, Palo Alto Networks said. Or the hackers may have already had inside access, it said.

It's unclear who pulled off the attack, but the malware is similar to the older version of Shamoon used in the 2012 attack against the Saudi Arabian oil company, security firms said. That version overwrote the infected hard disks with images of a burning U.S. flag.

A hacktivist group called Cutting Sword of Justice claimed responsibility for the 2012 attack, but U.S. investigators have suspected that Iran was involved. Iran has denied any ties to that attack. 

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?