Hackers Target US Oil Giants


One hacking incident that’s ruffling quite a few feathers across the Atlantic today is the case of three US oil companies being targeted in a co-ordinated operation. These hacks – which could be a good storyline to note for writers of any upcoming ‘reimagining’ of Dallas – sought valuable information about new discoveries of oil deposits and other data, according to a new report in the Christian Science Monitor.

Information worth millions of dollars may have been at risk thanks to reported hacks on ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil.

Elsewhere, Wired noted this morning, “The attacks predated by two years recent intrusions into Google and other companies but shared some similarities to those attacks. Highly targeted malicious e-mails were sent to employees and customized spyware attempted to grab specific data. The hackers sought ‘bid data’ which details the location of oil deposits around the world as well as their size and value.”

Paul Dorey, former chief information security officer at BP, told the Monitor that, “Knowing which one of those blocks is oil-bearing — and which to go for and which not — is clearly worth something. If I was a foreign government, that’s the data I would want to get — and any analysis that reveals [a company’s] intention.”

Just to be uber-official here, the three companies that were hit — ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil — didn’t confirm the hacks to the Monitor. According to the Monitor’s sources though, in February 2009, federal officials from the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force met with oil company executives and their technology teams to discuss what occurred.

Marathon Oil were to first became suspicious when, on13  November, 2008, a senior executive in the company’s Houston office received an e-mail that appeared to be a reply to a message she had sent a corporate colleague overseas. Investigators would ultimately learn that similar e-mails had been sent to key executives at ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, as well. Some of the data siphoned from the companies went to computers overseas, including one located in China.


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