Hackers Target Oil Producers as They Struggle With a Record Glut of Crude
As the world’s top oil producers prepared for a weeklong meeting in April to plan a response to slumping prices of crude, espionage hackers commenced a sophisticated spearphishing campaign that was concentrated on US-based energy companies.
As the world’s top oil producers prepared for a weeklong meeting in April to plan a response to slumping prices of crude, espionage hackers commenced a sophisticated spearphishing campaign that was concentrated on US-based energy companies. The goal: install a notorious trojan that siphoned their most sensitive communications and data.
Setting the campaign apart, the emails were mostly free of the typos, broken grammar, and other sloppiness that are typical of phishes. The emails also reflected a sender who was well-acquainted with the business of energy production. A barrage of emails that started on 31 March, for instance, purported to come from Engineering for Petroleum and Process Industries, a real Egyptian state oil company.
Not Your Father’s Spearphishing
The sender invited the recipient to submit a bid for equipment and materials as part of a real ongoing project, known as the Rosetta Sharing Facilities Project, on behalf of Burullus, a gas joint venture that’s half-owned by another Egyptian state oil company. The email, which was sent to about 150 oil and gas companies over a week starting on 31 March, attached two files that masqueraded as bidding conditions, forms, and a request for proposal. The relatively small number of emails demonstrates a narrow targeting of the carefully crafted campaign. By contrast, many phishing campaigns nondiscriminately send tens of thousands of emails.
“To someone in the oil and gas industry who has knowledge about these projects, the email and the information within might seem sufficiently convincing to open the attachments,” researchers from security firm Bitdefender wrote.
The most-targeted companies were located in Malaysia, the US, Iran, South Africa, and Oman.