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Firm at heart of biggest oil spill spews toxic web attack

Transocean's deepwater.com hosts malware exploits

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Transocean, the offshore drilling contractor at the center of the world's biggest marine oil spill in the history of petroleum production, has been caught spewing a virtual sort of toxic sludge, according to a report released Thursday.

Researchers at web security firm Websense said deepwater.com, Transocean's official website, has been hosting malicious exploit code that attempts to install malware on the machines of people who visit the site. The researchers counted at least two separate attacks included in several deepwater.com pages that exploit known vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser and Adobe's Flash media player.

Only 16 percent of the top 44 antivirus programs detected the latter exploit, the Websense report said, citing this analysis from Virustotal. The exploit code is stashed in invisible iframe tags planted on Transocean's site, the report said.

As of 10:30 am California time, about 26 hours after the exploit code was first detected, the attacks were continuing unabated, Patrik Runald, a senior manager for security research at Websense, told The Register. They stopped shortly after The Reg asked a Transocean spokesman to comment.

“We don't know exactly how the compromise happened but as the attackers were able to upload the exploit files to the server it's not a SQL injection attack (which usually involves redirection to an external server),” he wrote in an email.

One of the world's biggest offshore drilling contractors, Transocean operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which caught fire on April 20, 2010 and spilled some 205.8 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Computers on the rig had a history of malfunctions, a chief engineering technician on the rig told investigators last year.

A spokesman for Transocean said members of the company's IT department managed to remove the exploit code from the company's servers, a claim Runald confirmed. The spokesman didn't say if the deepwater.com website has ever been reviewed by outside security auditors.

The Websense report is here. ®

This post was updated to report that the exploit code has been removed.

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