Global petrochemical, oil and energy companies have been listed as cyber-attack targets, computer security firm McAfee says.
In a report, the firm says covert attacks were carried out on command and control servers in the US and Netherlands in an attempt to harm companies in Greece, Kazakhstan, Taiwan and the US.
During the attacks, the culprits stole highly sensitive data regarding proprietary operations, as well as project financing information such as oil and gas field bids.
It is unknown what the motives are behind the attacks but McAfee says they are sometimes used to ‘indulge in corporate espionage, compromise information security or even to create panic’.
It is thought about a dozen multinational oil, gas and energy companies have been attacked since November 2009 and McAfee says five firms have confirmed the security breaches.
The hackers got into the companies’ computer networks through an external server via their websites and then downloaded software than enabled them to gain access into their internal networks.
Once they had got this far, McAfee says the hackers would source usernames and passwords and then disable the internal networks so that they could gain remote access.
McAfee’s director of security strategy Greg Day says: ‘What makes this different is the very specific ongoing targeting of specific organisations with a very distinct purpose to what they were trying to achieve.’