Iran takes oil refineries offline after cyberattack

Iran has shut down Internet access to six oil refineries in response to a cyberattack that may have infected some of its systems, according to reports.

The Iranian Mehr News Agency reported that the attack on April 22 was repelled before it could do any damage, but subsequent reports said the computer worm, as Mehr referred to it, could have done more damage than originally thought.

Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the attack, which struck Iran’s Oil Ministry, the National Iranian Oil Co. and other operations, took down some of their systems, which could be out for several days.

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Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted a spokesman for the National Iranian Oil Co. as saying the attack had damaged “some general information and data” but did not affect its main servers, which are not linked to the Internet.

"We have a backup from all our main or secondary data, and there is no problem in this regard," the spokesman said. Few other details on the attack, such as how it hit or what type of malware was involved, were released.

A notice posted on the Iran Oil Ministry’s website — which later on April 23 was itself offline — said that the malware, which it called a “virus,” damaged some hard drives on infected systems but only affected public information, and not any sensitive ministry information, ThreatPost reported.

One of the sites infected was the oil terminal at Kharg Island, which handles about 90 percent of the country’s oil exports.

Iranian officials said, however, the the attack had not affected oil production in the country, which produces the second-most amount of crude oil, after Saudi Arabia, in the Middle East.

In late 2009, Iran’s nuclear processing operations were hit by the sophisticated Stuxnet worm, which targeted programmable logic controllers in centrifuges used in uranium processing. Stuxnet, which spread widely but was specifically targeted, caused Iran to shut down its Natanz processing plant for a week. Engineers at the plant only recently succeeded in completely scrubbing Suxtnet from their systems.

Cybersecurity experts have considered the United States and Israel as possibly being behind the Stuxnet attacks, and a recent report said an Iranian double agent working for Israel had planted the virus using a memory stick.

Meanwhile, Iranian has been developing a “national information network” that would operate separately from the Internet, in part to muzzle dissent and keep out Western influences, but also to prevent cyberattacks.

In announcing the creation of a Supreme Council of Cyberspace, one official, apparently referring to Stuxnet, said, "We are worried about a portion of cyberspace that is used for exchanging information and conducting espionage."



About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments


The policies of Obama are really going to hurt in about 4-7 years when the current wells and extraction points start to dry up domestically and his crazy eco-policies have prevented new drilling or extraction sites. Of course he won't get the blame because he will either been voted out of office or been long gone by then.... I find it funny that his energy secretary rated himself an "A", he must have used European socialist grading card for his metrics...

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 earth

In the news today: "Saudi Arabia has some of the world's largest oil and gas fields but rapidly rising power demand in the kingdom threatens to absorb much of those reserves unless it can find alternative fuels for its long-term economic growth.

"Prince Turki al-Faisal, a key Saudi royal, has said the kingdom would not surrender its right to enrich its own uranium for energy use in the long term, although it expects to have to import fuel in the medium term.

"Last year, a KA-CARE official said the country could build up to 16 nuclear power reactors by 2030, but KA-CARE has created many potential energy supply and demand scenarios and the actual number of nuclear reactors will depend entirely on what share of the overall mix the government finally targets.

So the supplier that is supposed to ramp up production to allow an embargo on Iranian oil due to its nuclear power program needs to start a nuclear program of its own to keep from running out of supplies?

Does anyone really know what is going on?

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 earth

What you will notice is that when The republican candidate was singing “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran” Oil rose significantly. When it became clear that Obama would win the prices moved downwards. But as it became clear that Obama was just as war mongering as bush the prices went back up. It is largely based on speculation of risk and insurance. Sure it wen't down just as Obama won but it is disingunious to point out the minimum after a long term trend under bush. The peach dividend was short lived and that is the point of the original post. No peace, no prosperity.

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 earth

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 Lord Erigon

You might be somewhat confused "Earth". The price when Obama took office in January of 2009 was 1.94 to 1.67 as compard to the 3.84 today. (see In Obama's own words - "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment". He hired as his energy secretary a person who was quoted as saying, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the prie of gasoline to the levels in Europe" just before he was selected for office.

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