On Thursday the hacktivist collective Anonymous will officially launch a unified hacking campaign aimed at taking down the international oil and gas industry. The attack, dubbed Operation Petrol (or alternatively, #OpPetrol), is expected to target the United States, Canada, England, Italy, France, Germany, Israel, Russia, China and the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, and may prove to be one of the group’s most ambitious campaigns yet.
On May 11, Anonymous released a video on YouTube announcing the planned attack, describing it as politically motivated. Although the group expressed criticism of several governments’ involvement in the oil industry, its harshest words were reserved for the Saudi Arabian government, which it condemned for “betraying” Muslims by basing oil prices on United States currency. The group also singled out the United States for allegedly “creating war for the purpose of stealing Gold” and “stealing oil.”
“Petrol is sold with the dollar currency of the U.S. We find this unacceptable because the oil should be sold at the country of origin, making petrol a lot less expensive than what you, the citizens, is paying for it [sic],” Anonymous stated in the video. “Saudi Arabia, you have betrayed your fellow believers with your cooperation with these greedy foreigners, causing much pressures on families from around the world. You allowed this to happen.”
Anonymous also claimed in the video that governments are steadily moving toward using electronic money transfers, a shift that will eventually allow them to freely steal from their own citizens. Since the initial announcement, Anonymous has teased the attack on Twitter and elsewhere, eliciting concern from cybersecurity firms.
Tom Kellerman, vice president of cybersecurity at Trend Micro, told Bloomberg TV that the upcoming attacks could potentially inflict much more substantial damage than past attacks did. “The problem here is that two or three actors with various cyber-capability can leverage attacks that rival the attacks of nation states,” Kellerman said. “And no longer will these folks just focus on knocking things down like websites; they might actually begin to leverage destructive payloads to destroy the backend systems.”
“You’re gonna start to see more of this politically based activism, essentially events that are associated with cyberattacks,” he added. “And Wednesday night into Thursday will be a significant event for this sector as a whole.”
But not everyone agrees that the cyber campaign will have a substantial impact. In a post titled “What to Expect from #OpPetrol” the HP Security Research Blog downplayed the attack’s potential for damage, reasoning that social media activity discussing the event had largely dissipated. “We do not anticipate #OpPetrol to be a large success,” the post concluded.
Commenters on the video announcement’s YouTube page also expressed concern for the operation. “Go after the oil companies, not the US Dollar. If the dollar fails, many people will die. The entire world is tied to it,” one commenter wrote.
“I have no issues with taking on Big Oil. But the thought persists: If oil becomes cheaper again, and everyone starts driving around like they used to, what does that do for the environment?” another wrote.
However, the thread’s most upvoted comment came from an optimistic Anonymous supporter, who wrote, “This could well turn out to be one of the most important Anonymous actions to date. It will tell the superpowers that NOW is the time to step off the gravy train and give us back our world, or risk taking on a community that is waking up all around that world.”
View the video announcement below.