Warn­ing North Sea firms likely al­ready at­tacked

Re­formed hacker says ed­u­cat­ing em­ploy­ees of risks is cru­cial

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY DAVID MCPHEE

Aformer mem­ber of hack­tivist group Anony­mous has warned that big North Sea firms are “prob­a­bly al­ready vic­tims” of a data hack.

Re­formed hacker Mike Jones said at an Aberdeen tech event last night there is “al­ways a way in” to the ad­min­is­tra­tion net­work of big firms.

But the once-in­fa­mous in­ter­net cipher added that, for oil and gas com­pa­nies, tak­ing pre­cau­tions and ed­u­cat­ing staff was es­sen­tial to pre­vent­ing a larger crit­i­cal breach.

Speak­ing at Robert Gor­don Univer­sity (RGU), Mr Jones warned that hacker groups can be in­side a com­pany’s sys­tem for over two years un­de­tected, and once dis­cov­ered “it will take over six months” to fully get rid of the dam­age.

He said: “A hacker is al­ways go­ing to get in some way; it might not be to­day, it might not be to­mor­row, but they will.

“The faster a com­pany can stay on top of new vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and ed­u­cate, the longer you can put that in­evitabil­ity off.

“A lot of the net­works are com­pro­mised by em­ploy­ees click­ing on bad emails, or us­ing com­pro­mised USB sticks.

“You can stay on top of tech­nol­ogy, but if you have no ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme so peo­ple un­der­stand how their be­hav­iours on the com­pany net­work can af­fect the or­gan­i­sa­tion, you’re wast­ing your time. It’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

Mr Jones, who went by the moniker ‘sting3r’, is also a for­mer US mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence ex­pert and Iraq War vet­eran.

Based in Hous­ton, he claims to have de­vel­oped “ex­ploit” tech­niques to help com­pa­nies pro­tect them­selves through greater un­der­stand­ing of the spe­cific threats they face.

Asked whether in­ter­net hack­ers were likely al­ready into the net­work of big firms like BP and Shell, Mr Jones said: “It’s pos­si­ble.

“I’m sure there are ma­chines within those com­pa­nies that have been com­pro­mised.

“It doesn’t mean there are fin­gers be­hind the key­board on the other end, but it does mean that back­door is there for the next per­son who comes along.”

Pho­to­graph by Kenny El­rick

CAU­TION URGED: Mike Jones, who gave a talk at Robert Gor­don Univer­sity ti­tled In­side the Mind of a Hacker.

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