April 20, 2014

Iran Unplugs Oil Export Terminal Computers After Virus Found

(LiveHacking.Com) – Iran has been forced to disconnect some of the computers at its Kharg Island oil processing terminal due to malware. The yet unknown virus was found inside the control systems of Kharg Island – Iran’s main oil terminal which handles the vast majority of Iran’s crude oil exports. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said although it disconnected some computers from the Internet, to stop any further spread of the malware, the terminal remained operational.

According to the semi-official Mehr news agency, the virus affected the computers in Iran’s Oil Ministry and of its national oil company. As a precaution, computers that control some of Iran’s other oil facilities have also been disconnected from the Internet. It is also reporting that the Iranian authorities have set up a crisis unit which is work to neutralize what they are calling an “attack.”

It looks as if the disruption to Iran’s oil production has been minimal unlike the international sanctions which, according to Reuters, is forcing the country to use more than half of its supertanker oil fleet to store crude at sea in the Gulf. The only tangible effect seems to be that the Iranian oil ministry and national oil company websites went offline. This could be due to the massive unplugging that occurred or it could be a direct result of the virus. This remains to be seen. According to the BBC the Ministry website was back in action on Monday but the oil company site has remained unreachable. The BBC added that an Iranian oil ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying that data about users of the sites had been stolen as a result of the attack.

Pundits are already starting to make comparisons with the Stuxnet computer worm which hit Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2009 and 2010. It is estimated that the Stuxnet worm, which specifically targets Siemens’ Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) software used to control and monitor industrial processes and has the ability to reprogram Siemens’ Simatic PLCs (programmable logic controllers), was responsible for destroying about a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in an attempt to delay Iran’s nuclear program. In 2010 William J. Lynn, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, wrote that “as a doctrinal matter, the Pentagon has formally recognized cyberspace as a new domain in warfare . . . [which] has become just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.”

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