TECH

'Shamoon' Virus Most Destructive Ever To Hit A Business, Leon Panetta Warns

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2012, file photo, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaks at a news conference with U.S. Chairma
FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2012, file photo, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaks at a news conference with U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, not pictured, at the Pentagon, in Washington. A former U.S. government official says American authorities firmly believe that Iranian hackers, likely supported by the Tehran government, were responsible for recent cyberattacks against oil and gas companies in the Persian Gulf and that they appeared to be in retaliation for the latest round of U.S. sanctions against the country. The former official spoke to The Associated Press shortly before Panetta, in a speech to business leaders in New York City Thursday night, Oct. 11, 2012, became the first U.S. official to publicly acknowledge the computer-based assaults. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The "Shamoon" virus that attacked Saudi Arabia's state oil company, ARAMCO, was probably the most destructive attack the business sector has seen to date, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday.

Addressing business leaders in New York, Panetta described the virus as sophisticated and noted that a similar attack days later struck Qatar's natural gas firm, Rasgas.

"More than 30,000 computers that it infected (at ARAMCO) were rendered useless, and had to be replaced," he said.

He said Shamoon included a routine called a "wiper," coded to self-execute, which replaced crucial system files with an image of a burning U.S. flag. It also overwrote all the real data on the machine with what he called garbage data.

"Imagine the impact an attack like this would have on your company," Panetta said, as he called for steps to bolster the nation's cyber defenses.

In his speech, Panetta also cited recent denial-of-service attacks against major U.S. banks, which delayed or disrupted services on customer websites.

"While this kind of tactic isn't new, the scale and speed with which it happened was unprecedented," he said.

One U.S. official, briefing reporters before the speech on condition of anonymity, said the United States knew who carried out the attacks cited in Panetta's speech, but declined to disclose that information.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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