Cyber Attack Targets Tankers


By MarEx 2015-05-21 00:37:17

IT company Panda Security has released Operation Oil Tanker: The Phantom Menace, a report that details a malicious and largely unknown targeted attack on oil tankers.

First discovered by Panda Security in January 2014, the ongoing attack on oil cargos began in August 2013 and is designed to steal information and credentials for defrauding oil brokers.

Despite having been compromised by this cyber-attack, which Panda has dubbed “The Phantom Menace”, none of the dozens of affected companies have been willing to report the invasion and risk global attention for vulnerabilities in their IT security networks.

The Phantom Menace is one of the most unique attacks that PandaLabs has discovered. No antivirus engine was able to detect it when first triggered, primarily because the attackers used legitimate tools in conjunction with a number of self-made scripts to bypass any warnings that traditional anti-virus software would detect, says the company. It was only discovered when a secretary opened a nonspecific attachment to an email – a type of file that Panda Security would later identify among ten different companies in the oil and gas maritime transportation sector.

“Initially this looked like an average non-targeted attack. Once we dug deeper, though, it became clear that this was a systematic, targeted attack against a specific sector in the oil industry,” said Luis Corrons, PandaLabs Technical Director of Panda Security, and report author. “We can limit the impact of this potentially catastrophic cyber-attack, but only if the victimized companies are willing to come forward”.

In most cases, identifying the source of a cyber-attack is tremendously challenging. Once discovered, however, The Phantom Menace had a telling weak spot: the FTP connection used to send out the stolen credentials. Through the FTP connection, PandaLabs was able to identify both an email address and name.

Panda Security stands ready to identify the individual to authorities, but without any credible reports being volunteered by the alleged victims, the authorities are unable to launch their investigations or make any arrests.

Panda Security hopes the release of its report will shed light on the potential damage of The Phantom Menace and encourage companies to take the necessary steps against the perpetrator.

The report is available here.