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Anonymous Targets Oil Giants ExxonMobil, Shell and BP

Anonymous Looks to Save the Planet by Targeting ExxonMobil, Shell and BP

Last week, and continuing into the weekend, Anonymous targeted ExxonMobil and claimed to have compromised company data during Op SaveTheArctic. The attack was in response to environmental concerns, and it isn’t the first time Exxon has come under the gun with regards to the faceless hacking collective.

“The energy companies that caused the Arctic to melt in the first place are looking to profit from the disappearing ice. They want to open up a new oil frontier to get at a potential 90 billion barrels of oil. That’s a lot of money to them, but it’s only three years’ worth of oil to the world,” a statement by Anonymous released after the attacks explains.

The operation lists ExxonMobil, Shell Petrochemical, BP Global, Gazprom, and Rosneft as targets. Each company has a vested interest in oil and energy, and each one has faced environmental protesting in the past.

On Thursday, Anonymous claimed to have leaked 316 email addresses and hashed passwords, allegedly taken from a cracked ExxonMobil database. They claimed they were then able to use the company passwords to sign petitions protesting operations in the Arctic. 

The breach itself could not be confirmed, and when asked about the incident, an ExxonMobil spokesperson told SecurityWeek that the company does not comment on security-related inquiries. Additionally, it’s unlikely that the list of compromised user names and passwords came from the company’s main email system, but rather a smaller Web server that contained a limited amount of user data. To put the hacker claims of 316 breached accounts into context, ExxonMobil currently has over 82,000 employees around the world.

The claimed database compromise, the data release explained, was possible due to a configuration error.

Last summer, Anonymous’ Operation Green Rights listed Exxon as a potential target, when they stood in a united front against ‘Big Oil’ during the creation of a shipping route to the Alberta Tar Sands in Canada.

“...Operation Green Rights will always support the rights of the people to live in an unpolluted world, and aim to help safeguard it for the future. One way or another,” supporters said in a statement at the time.

Op SaveTheArctic is said to have three phases, where phase one was the attack on ExxonMobil. There have been no other publicized attacks since the initial actions last week and sporadic commentary over the weekend, where there was some bragging about recycling the published email addresses.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.