Middle East Saudi Arabia

Saudis Hit By Major Cyber Attack

(GPA) Riyadh – Saudi Arabia has been hit by a wave of cyber attacks in the past few weeks that they say originate in Iran and are carried out by state agencies.

The attacks targeted several aspects of Saudi infrastructure, including government agencies and airports. This is the largest attack on Saudi assets since 2012 when the national oil company, Aramco was hit by a virus placed by someone who already had access to the company’s computers.

That attack, like this most recent one, was blamed on Iran but the Saudis never provided viable evidence for the claim. This most recent attack was perpetrated from outside any Saudi networks and came in the form of the now infamous Shamoon malware. This is the the same type of malware used on Sony’s servers two years ago.

Most media is reporting that the attack allegedly came from Iran but also acknowledges that a sophisticated group of hackers could have just made it appear to have originated there.

The attacks were said to have hit hundreds of computers in an attempt to steal data, stop operations of certain agencies and plant viruses. Supposedly the attack brought operations at Saudi airports “to a halt for several days” but there was no visible disruption of service.

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Flickr: Christiaan Colen
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Flickr: Christiaan Colen

Saudi Arabia’s government-run news agency first ran the story quoting a press release by the government but it seems like it either hasn’t had a huge effect or the Saudis are trying to cover how much it has them worried.

When a spokesman for the interior ministry, Mohsen al-Shahrani was asked about it he just responded with “what attack?…I have not heard anything about this.” This could be a cover to not acknowledge the attack did any damage or – who knows with the Saudis – maybe it never happened and this is propaganda to besmirch Tehran.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have been in a slowly escalating cyber war for several years now, on top of their proxy wars in the region in countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. If this attack did happen and was carried out by the Iranian government it’s probably only retribution for recent Saudi attacks that the western media essentially ignores. If the accusation that Tehran ordered this is true (or even if it’s not) they can probably expect another wave of Saudi interference in the coming months.