Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

4/23/2012
01:05 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Iran: Oil Industry Hit By Malware Attack

Deja vu all over again as Iranian government-owned systems reportedly targeted by a 'worm'

Officials in the Iranian oil ministry say their network and the country's main oil export terminal were infected with a malware-borne attack that reportedly forced the nation to take those systems offline temporarily.

Word of the apparent worm attack reported by various international news outlets today quickly brought a sense of deja vu and comparisons to the Stuxnet worm that targeted Iran's Natanz facility in 2010. But most security experts say this doesn't appear to be another Stuxnet, which was an obvious nation state-sponsored attack aimed at disarming Iran's nuclear operations.

An Iranian oil ministry spokesperson said in a statement on the ministry's website that the virus attacks yesterday did not affect any major information and that the public servers that were hit are "isolated from the main servers."

The Mehr news agency said the Iranian Oil Ministry, the National Iranian Oil Company, and other businesses with ties to the oil ministry were targeted on Sunday by the worm, but that it was mitigated before it could do serious damage, according to a Dow Jones newswire report.

According to a report by Bloomberg, sources in the Iranian oil industry said a virus was found in the control systems of Kharg Island, where most of Iran's crude oil expert operations reside. The terminal remained up and running during the infection, the sources said.

A server that offered public information was the only one hurt in the attack, Ali Nikzad, a ministry spokesman, told the state-run Fars news agency, according to the Bloomberg report.

Security experts say it's too soon to draw any connections to this attack and Stuxnet or Duqu, for instance.

"Based on information currently available, it would be very premature to suggest that this was targeted against either Iran or systems utilized in oil pipeline/transportation operations -- and indeed make any kind of comparison to Stuxnet," says Tom Parker, chief technology officer at FusionX.

Initial reports indicate that it was the website of the oil ministry that was affected, and not control systems. "So [there is] no indication that it was targeted against oil production systems," Parker says.

[Researchers at Symantec dissect part of new, retooled version of the reconnaissance-gathering malware that's related to Stuxnet. See Duqu Alive And Well: New Variant Found In Iran. ]

The other issue, of course, is the validity of reports and statements that come from the highly censored nation. "Iran also likes to play victim on this sort of stuff, and has done [so] since Stuxnet, so I'd take any info that comes from Iranian officials, or companies with a pinch of salt," Parker says.

Mark Russinovich, technical fellow at Microsoft in Windows Azure, said on Twitter today that he doesn't think the attack was a nation-state operation. "I doubt this was a nation-state attack, but Iran announces that oil terminal was 'offline' after 'malware attack,'" he tweeted today from his account.

Meanwhile, John Bumgarner, a security specialist with the think tank U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, reportedly told Reuters that the purpose of such a malware attack would to be "erase data" and ultimately shut down operations: "The reason you would put a virus inside this network to erase data is because that causes those facilities to have to shut down" and to rebuild servers, he told Reuters. "So during that time the production and refinery operations for Iran could be impacted. And depending on how the virus was written, it could be longer term."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
ANON1234466804894
50%
50%
ANON1234466804894,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 12:13:08 AM
re: Iran: Oil Industry Hit By Malware Attack
-agreed
ydnar
50%
50%
ydnar,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2012 | 9:24:01 PM
re: Iran: Oil Industry Hit By Malware Attack
I could see them acknowledging a simple DoS/DDoS if they are trying to play the "victim" as one person mentioned in the article has already speculated.-
boldi
50%
50%
boldi,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2012 | 8:41:26 PM
re: Iran: Oil Industry Hit By Malware Attack
For a simple DoS or DDoS Iran would not ack that they were hit.
ydnar
50%
50%
ydnar,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2012 | 7:23:50 PM
re: Iran: Oil Industry Hit By Malware Attack
You're correct.- A Web server should be isolated within a DMZ and segregated from any other sensitive servers, and ideally there should be an additional layer of security between those sensitive servers and any SCADA infrastructure.
Danielle Russell
50%
50%
Danielle Russell,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2012 | 6:48:57 PM
re: Iran: Oil Industry Hit By Malware Attack
This is no Stuxnet:
This could be a DDOS or an actual expoit of some software running on the web server, article does not mention if this is the same as the "terminal" computer. Generally web servers are segregated from sensitive computers, can't imagine they run web servers on their main oil export computer.
Data Privacy Protections for the Most Vulnerable -- Children
Dimitri Sirota, Founder & CEO of BigID,  10/17/2019
Sodinokibi Ransomware: Where Attackers' Money Goes
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/15/2019
Tor Weaponized to Steal Bitcoin
Dark Reading Staff 10/18/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
2019 Online Malware and Threats
2019 Online Malware and Threats
As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-18218
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-21
cdf_read_property_info in cdf.c in file through 5.37 does not restrict the number of CDF_VECTOR elements, which allows a heap-based buffer overflow (4-byte out-of-bounds write).
CVE-2019-18217
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-21
ProFTPD before 1.3.6b and 1.3.7rc before 1.3.7rc2 allows remote unauthenticated denial-of-service due to incorrect handling of overly long commands because main.c in a child process enters an infinite loop.
CVE-2019-16862
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-21
Reflected XSS in interface/forms/eye_mag/view.php in OpenEMR 5.x before 5.0.2.1 allows a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of a user's session via the pid parameter.
CVE-2019-17409
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-21
Reflected XSS exists in interface/forms/eye_mag/view.php in OpenEMR 5.x before 5.0.2.1 ia the id parameter.
CVE-2019-10715
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-21
There is Stored XSS in Verodin Director before 3.5.4.0 via input fields of certain tooltips, and on the Tags, Sequences, and Actors pages.