CNN presents a — if not tell-all, then tell-much — story on what it characterizes as the greatest computer hack in history… against Saudi ARAMCO.

The attack happened in 2012 and brought the company to its knees, a blow that could have bankrupted smaller concerns. And it all started with a spammy e-mail.

Read the whole thing.

The inside story of the biggest hack in history

Three years ago, the world witnessed the worst hack ever seen.

And for the first time, we’re now learning new details about the monstrous cyberattack on Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest oil companies.

In a matter of hours, 35,000 computers were partially wiped or totally destroyed. Without a way to pay them, gasoline tank trucks seeking refills had to be turned away. Saudi Aramco’s ability to supply 10% of the world’s oil was suddenly at risk.

And one of the most valuable companies on Earth was propelled back into 1970s technology, using typewriters and faxes.

When it comes to sheer cost, the recent cyberattacks on Sony Pictures and the American government pale in comparison.

The average person has never heard about Saudi Aramco — or this hack. But we all felt its mysterious reverberations.

August:08:2015 - 00:02 | Comments Off | Permalink

Another mosque has been bombed in Saudi Arabia. This time, the target appears to have been security personnel — 17 of whom were killed — rather than Shi’ite congregants. The bombing took place in the southern city of Abha.

Deadly suicide bombing hits Saudi mosque

At least 17 security officers were killed Thursday after a suicide bombing targeted a mosque used by the emergency forces south of Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

The incident took place in Abha, capital of Asir province.

In July, Saudi Arabia arrested 431 people as part of a crackdown on a cluster of cells linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

August:06:2015 - 06:37 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s move toward renewable energy continue, Arab News reports. A new solar power plant is scheduled to open in Aflaj, in the center of the country. The plant will produce 50 megawatts of electricity daily.

Solar power plant set to open in Aflaj

RIYADH: The solar-power plant, “Layla,” in Aflaj province, will be opened shortly, Saleh Al-Awaji, chairman of Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), has said.

The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) is one of the signatories, along with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and Taqnia Energy, to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the launch of the first 50 megawatt solar power station at Al-Aflaj.

Al-Awaji described the start of the power plant as a move toward a newfound reliance on renewable energy for electricity generation. “It will make Aflaj the first province in the Kingdom to benefit from clean energy. There are similar projects that the company will undertake in the future.” He recalled that the strategic transformation program approved by the board of directors in April 2014 includes plans to ration the use of fossil fuels and raise the efficiency of its use in power plants, through a transformation of the power plants of the company from simple cycle to combined cycle, as well as by providing investment opportunities for the implementation of projects for converting stations to renewable energy electricity.

Al-Awaj said the implementation of these projects is expected to save 1.5 million barrels of fuel per day, which translates into 550 million barrels per year.

August:05:2015 - 06:28 | Comments Off | Permalink

Summers can get pretty hot in Saudi Arabia. The record high temperature is 52.0° C/125.6° F. As a result, the Saudi Ministry of Labor has promulgated a rule that requires outdoor work to stop between the hours of noon and 3:00PM. That rule, however, is inconvenient for many employers, so they tend to ignore it.

Now, report Saudi Gazette/Okaz, the Ministry is stepping in to halt the abuse. It has identified some 250 firms flouting the regulation and is fining them.

Employers continue to flout mid-day work ban
Ibrahim Alawi

JEDDAH — The Ministry of Labor’s Makkah branch recorded 250 violations of regulations prohibiting outdoor work between noon and 3 p.m., and has penalized the companies involved.

The branch’s director general, Abdullah Al-Olayyan, said all of the ministry’s inspectors in the region carried out field campaigns to detect such violations since the ban came into effect on June 15.

The ban covers both commercial and government projects, including the construction of housing complexes and any sites where employees work under direct sunlight.

Al-Olayyan added that the 250 employees were from different firms. He said the inspection tours are being carried out due to the ministry’s keenness to provide a safe work environment, to raise the efficiency of occupational safety and to protect employees from hazards and accidents.

He called for the cooperation of all parties by not forcing employees to work during the ban period in order to protect their safety and stressed that inspections would be intensified. The ministerial decision defining the ban calls for fines ranging from SR3,000 to SR10,000 for companies that violate the law.

August:03:2015 - 08:02 | Comments Off | Permalink

The UK’s The Guardian newspaper catches Iran forging a document alleging Saudi skullduggery and attempting to legitimize it by saying it’s a product of WikiLeaks.

There was a major release of Saudi documents via WikiLeaks over the past month or so. The documents I’ve seen aren’t very surprising; they’re what the Saudis are saying publicly, though perhaps a bit more frankly since they’re internal documents. But seeking to leverage the notoriety — and presumed veracity — of documents exposed through WikiLeaks isn’t totally dumb. Low-information readers can certainly be taken in. Iran should remember, though, that two can play the game.

Iran uses fabricated WikiLeaks cable to smear UN rights rapporteur
Saeed Kamali Dehghan

Iran has launched a sophisticated smear campaign against the UN special rapporteur investigating its human rights violations by widely spreading a fabricated WikiLeaks cable purporting to show he received bribes from Saudi Arabia.

In a concerted effort aimed at discrediting Ahmed Shaheed in the eyes of the general public, Iranian state-run agencies and semi-official websites simultaneously carried articles claiming that the Saudi embassy in Kuwait had paid the UN envoy $1m to take an anti-Iran position. It dominated many Iranian front pages on Tuesday and an Iranian official later used the false information to question Shaheed’s credibility.

The allegations are based on what is claimed to be a WikiLeaks cable the authenticity of which has been challenged by the organisation itself. “Please show which cable this claim is based on. You fail to link to one of our cables in the article,” the official account of the WikiLeaks tweeted in response to a website carrying the news. Shaheed has also strongly denied the claims.

August:03:2015 - 06:17 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia is pumping oil as never before, Arab News reports. Saudi production is in line with the rest of OPEC, according to the article. Global oil prices continue to drop and when Iranian oil hits the market following the lifting of sanctions, it’s likely to decline further.

Despite lower prices, the article states, Saudi Arabia remains committed to its mega-projects in infrastructure development.

Saudi Arabia keeps oil output at record pace

JEDDAH: OPEC oil output reached the highest monthly level in recent history in July, a Reuters survey found on Friday, as Saudi Arabia and other key members show no sign of wavering in their focus on defending market share instead of prices.

The latest boost from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries adds to excess supply in the market without the significant rise in demand OPEC hopes will happen in the second half of the year and in 2016.

Saudi Arabia has kept output steady or higher than in June, which was a record, sources in the survey said, as Riyadh meets higher demand internationally and from domestic power plants and refineries.

Riyadh reported crude oil production of 10.6 million barrels a day in June in the monthly oil market report published by OPEC. This is an increase of more than 200,000 bpd on the previous month and its highest level since records began.

August:01:2015 - 07:44 | Comments Off | Permalink

Arab News reports that an agreement has been reached between King Abdul Aziz City for Science & Technology and the Saudi Electric Company for the first meshing of solar power with the country’s electric grid. The goal is to reduce dependence on the country’s oil assets in meeting rising energy demand. Along the way, the project will seek to use homegrown talent, labor, and materials.

KACST gears up for KSA’s first solar power station

RIYADH: The King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) and Taqnia Energy to launch the first standalone 50MW solar power station at Al-Aflaj.

KACST also inked another memorandum to establish a joint research and development center at the SEC distribution sector.

KACST President Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud, SEC CEO Ziad Mohammad Al-Sheeha and Taqnia Energy CEO Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Muhanna signed the two memorandums.

Al-Saud said the memorandum aims to provide alternative and safe sources of energy that would ensure providing fuel and help building a sustainable future through engaging science, research and energy-related industries in reducing the cost of generating electricity through solar energy.

July:31:2015 - 07:14 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s lack of cinemas presents a huge barrier to Saudi filmmakers. What’s the point of making a film if no one’s going to see it? The options have been to go outside the country or to give up the quest.

Government-run Saudi TV is stepping in to offer a hand. According to this Arab News report, Saudi TV will be offering a showcase for Saudi-made films.

Young Saudi filmmakers’ works to be aired on TV
Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr.

RIYADH: Movies produced by young and amateur Saudi filmmakers will be shown on Saudi Television starting in the middle of next week.

“The films will be shown daily to encourage young Saudi filmmakers,” said Abdulaziz Fahad Al-Eid, senior broadcaster at Saudi TV and general supervisor of Cultural TV channel. He added that if they get support for the screenings, they could scale great heights in filmmaking and make a name for themselves.

Al-Eid said that he met some of these young Saudi filmmakers five years ago in Dubai when they were participating in filmmaking, and some of them won regional and international awards.

“When I took over the cultural show at Saudi Television, I already knew their capabilities as filmmakers. I also knew that their films had sophisticated ideas,” he said.

July:31:2015 - 07:09 | Comments Off | Permalink

It’s known, in a fairly widespread manner, that Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations. When a car with Saudi license plates was discovered in Jaffa, Israel last week, it set off a bit of a social media firestorm. The car, driven by an expat working in the KSA, set social media all atwitter. I suspect the car’s owner (and driver, if they are different) will be hearing about it from Saudi authorities and soon.

Photo of ‘Saudi’ car in Israel raises storm

JEDDAH: A Mercedes car with a Saudi number plate was spotted in Israel. The discovery led to intense discussion on social media websites on Tuesday.

According to reports, the car was spotted last week in Jaffa’s Clock Tower Square by Jacky Hugi, the Middle East editor for Israel’s Army Radio, who posted the picture on Twitter.

July:29:2015 - 09:25 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV carries an Agence France Presse story on a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health on a promising vaccine to counter MERS. The study has advanced to animal trials, including mice and monkeys, a necessary step before testing on humans can begin.

Study finds promising experimental MERS vaccine

An experimental vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) showed promising results in animal testing, sparking an immune system response that could lead to a vaccine for people, researchers said Tuesday.

Currently there are no licensed vaccines for MERS, which first appeared in 2012 and has caused numerous scares including a recent deadly outbreak in South Korea.

Vaccinated mice produced antibodies that neutralized MERS strains, according to a study from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The vaccines that caused the largest immune responses in mice were then administered to monkeys.

July:29:2015 - 09:14 | Comments Off | Permalink

There’s been a recent media splash over portions of an ancient Quran discovered in a collection at Birmingham University in the UK. Some of the claims about it have been a bit extravagant, such as claiming it as “the world’s oldest.”

Saudi scholars think the reports are mistaken, according to this story from Saudi Gazette. The scholars point out that there are certain historical discrepancies such as the use of red ink (not appropriate for the period) and believe the Birmingham researchers should have carbon-dated the ink, not the parchments.

Experts doubt oldest Qur’an claim
Saudi Gazette report

MAKKAH — Historians and manuscript experts have cast doubt on the credibility of the recent Birmingham University claim that it had discovered the oldest copy of the Qur’an.

The university recently showed two leaves of parchment with Qur’anic verses from chapter 18-20 in legible Hijazi script. It said the verses could have be scribbled somewhere between 568 AD and 645 AD.

The university’s claims mean that the verses were written close to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was widely believed to have lived between 570 AD and 632 AD.

Quoting the experts, Makkah daily said on Sunday that the manuscript might have possibly been written after the time of the Prophet (pbuh) due to several factors.

Experts contend that during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) there was no separation between the Surahs (chapters) in red colors, no red ink was used in writing “Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem” with which a Surah begins and that the holy book itself was not put in its today’s order.

July:27:2015 - 07:54 | Comments Off | Permalink

Once again, the government of Saudi Arabia is calling for all nations to enforce laws prohibiting blasphemy. Saudi Gazette carries a story from the official Saudi Press Agency reporting on a call made at a European symposium. The story does not report on what Iceland, which earlier this month repealed its laws against blasphemy, had to say.

Criminalize vilification of religious symbols, says Saudi official

SPA: LILLE, France — Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any act vilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.

Addressing an international symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, which started in this French city on Saturday, a senior Saudi official said the Kingdom emphasized years ago that the international community must act urgently to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, which has become widespread in all communities and peoples of the world.

“We have made it clear that freedom of expression without limits or restrictions would lead to violation and abuse of religious and ideological rights,” said Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, director for external relations at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

July:26:2015 - 08:54 | Comments Off | Permalink
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