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Exxon, Shell, BP outed as mystery hack attack victims

'Millions of dollars' in data targeted

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Bloomberg News has identified six of the energy companies targeted in recent series of “coordinated covert and targeted cyberattacks” and says the victims could face legal liability for choosing not to disclose them to shareholders.

The roster includes Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Marathon Oil, ConocoPhillips, and Baker Hughes, according to an article the news service published on Thursday. The report cited one of the victim companies and investigators who declined to be identified.

The attacks were ongoing for at least two years and possibly as long as four years. The unknown hackers worked through servers located in China.

The attackers “targeted computerized topographical maps worth 'millions of dollars' that show locations of potential oil reserves,” Bloomberg said, citing Ed Skoudis, founder and senior security consultant for InGuardians. The hacks were first disclosed in a report issued by McAfee, which said they resulted in the in the loss of “project-financing information with regard to oil and gas field bids and operations.”

Bloomberg said none of the hacked companies disclosed the attacks to shareholders, and quoted a lawyer who said “there is certainly the potential for shareholder derivative liability.”

The report also cited a McAfee spokesman saying company researchers promised to withhold the identity of the compromised companies in exchange for their help in preparing the report, which was done to “educate the community.”

The public outing of the victims could cause companies to think twice about participating in anonymous studies in the future. ®

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