Tapping the Oil Industry

Remember when it was outrageous that the Iranians had (allegedly) hacked Aramco? In addition to wiping hard drives (though in ways that left the computers recoverable), they also took and threatened to release documents.

In news that I earlier predicted, NSA and GCHQ have hacked OPEC, including Saudi Arabia’s OPEC Minister (though NSA managed to detask him when he came to the US).

Spiegel doesn’t provide much detail of what they’ve gotten — just a tantalizing overview, particularly given the likelihood that the speculation claim pertains to the skyrocketing prices in 2008, which (among other things) the Saudis used to get us into a new security cooperation agreement.

None of this is surprising. But as we try to fearmonger new wars based on one party hacking another, it’s probably safe to assume we got there first.

It stated that OPEC officials were trying to cast the blame for high oil prices on speculators. A look at files in the OPEC legal department revealed how the organization was preparing itself for an antitrust suit in the United States. And a review of the section reserved for the OPEC secretary general documented that the Saudis were using underhanded tactics, even within the organization. According to the NSA analysts, Riyadh had tried to keep an increase in oil production a secret for as long as possible.

Our TCA with Saudi Arabia (and the fact that we (Booz, in fact!) are now providing it with cybersecurity) may well be one reason it is no longer a top NSA target.

OPEC appears in the “National Intelligence Priorities Framework,” which the White House issues to the US intelligence community. Although the organization is still listed as an intelligence target in the April 2013 list, it is no longer a high-priority target.

Who needs to hack when you’re in charge of cybersecurity?

And guess which company has a lot of that business? Edward Snowden’s former employer, Booz.

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7 replies
  1. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    Back on June 6 when EW wrote her piece “Ron Wyden Calls Bullshit On Mike Rogers Claims” I mused that the whole spying thing could be likened to insurance fraud. https://www.emptywheel.net/2013/06/06/ron-wyden-calls-bullshit-on-mike-rogers-claims/#comment-560479

    But I was still not certain as to where-the-money-led.

    A week later when Rayne wrote her piece “NSA PRISM Slides: Notice Anything Unusual or Missing” I commented that the massive expenditure on this insurance fraud could only be justified if it provided economic advantage. Here https://www.emptywheel.net/2013/06/12/nsa-prism-slides-notice-anything/#comment-564463 and here https://www.emptywheel.net/2013/06/12/nsa-prism-slides-notice-anything/#comment-564590

    More and more we are seeing this is exactly what it delivers.

    And this is really what is scaring the shit out of the security industry, that economic competitors will realize they have been cheated.

    The damage could be massive. As just one example, imagine if OPEC bumped oil prices 50% in retaliation for this latest revelation.

  2. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    For those who can’t be bothered to read the links in my prior post, and who’d blame you, the one clue that really says to me, the spying is for economic advantage is that the most notable revelation that came out of the WikiLeaks Cablegate release was the extensive focus by the Foreign Service on economic promotion and competitive information gathering.

    The Diplomats were salesmen first and foremost.

    Why would the NSA spying have any different objective?

  3. emptywheel says:

    @Greg Bean (@GregLBean): Well, and where do you think they’d get the intelligence they’d use to coerce people? In particular, I think efforts to exclude US products (dangerous chemicals, intellectual property, etc) are a big spying target.

    I’m a bit more forgiving of spying on oil doings, bc it has the ability to destabilize the world really quickly.

    But I totally agree it’s about financial benefit. Tho mostly at a systemic level rather than a blueprint level.

  4. Ben Franklin says:

    “imagine if OPEC bumped oil prices 50% in retaliation for this latest revelation.”

    Imagine if they dumped the Petrodollar. They won’t do anything to hamper the cash flow. They would kill the Golden Goose and they know it.

  5. bloodypitchfork says:

    Feinsteins head must be exploding about now. After all, this is living proof her, and every other Surveillance State talking head who claim the NSA’s mission is to track terrorists is a bald faced lie.

  6. Rayne says:

    @emptywheel & @Greg Bean (@GregLBean): With this in mind, consider the Chinese cyber op, Operation Aurora. Was this really an offensive assault, or a defensive effort in the wake of Stuxnet and NSA’s spying, assuming the spying had become apparent to China?

    Aurora’s targeting of businesses that were not primarily MIC looked initially like competitive intelligence and IP acquisition. Now? I’m not so sure, given the exposure of some of the businesses to petrochemical markets.

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