Time is Short: Cyber-sabotage in Saudi Arabia

Aramco-Yanbu

Civilization is not a static force. It has metastasized across the world by accelerating its own development, by transforming the blood and corpses of its victims into new weapons with which to wage its relentless war against all life

Grasslands become grain monocultures feeding armies, conquering forests and mountains that become ships and swords that kill other cultures, conquering more forests and mountains, whose trees and minerals are turned into timber mills and trains, going forth to damn rivers, turning the relentless fluidity of their being to electricity to smelt iron and steel and aluminum, which in turn become guns and ocean tankers, which expand this superstructure ever further, tirelessly taking in what little wild remains, absorbing everything and everyone into this accelerating death march.

And yet, as the world is tied and bound tighter into this brutal arrangement, civilization (and especially industrialism) becomes more and more vulnerable, more open and fragile to disruption and destruction.

This brittleness is exemplified by the near-total dependence of the industrial economy on “advanced” technology, and the internet. This dependency upon a decentralized and accessible system that is poorly regulated and controlled—at least compared to other physical structures, like the offices of the same corporations— presents a potential point of powerful leverage against the operation of civilization.

Activists and resisters around the world are beginning to realize this, and seize the opportunity it presents to groups engaged in asymmetric forces against destruction.

Such as in Saudi Arabia; from a recent article in the New York Times;

“On Aug. 15, more than 55,000 Saudi Aramco [described as the world’s most valuable company] employees stayed home from work to prepare for one of Islam’s holiest nights of the year — Lailat al Qadr, or the Night of Power — celebrating the revelation of the Koran to Muhammad.

That morning, at 11:08, a person with privileged access to the Saudi state-owned oil company’s computers, unleashed a computer virus to initiate what is regarded as among the most destructive acts of computer sabotage on a company to date. The virus erased data on three-quarters of Aramco’s corporate PCs — documents, spreadsheets, e-mails, files — replacing all of it with an image of a burning American flag.”

This attack presents a good example of targeting a systemic weak point within the infrastructure of Saudi Aramco and maximizing impact through effective use of systems disruption: destroying three-fourths of corporate data will have impacts that last for weeks, and inhibit the company’s operation for some time. In fact, the attacked leveraged the company’s response against itself:

“Immediately after the attack, Aramco was forced to shut down the company’s internal corporate network, disabling employees’ e-mail and Internet access, to stop the virus from spreading.”

The cyber-sabotage also highlights the importance of careful planning and timing.

“The hackers picked the one day of the year they knew they could inflict the most damage…”

This smart and strategic approach to action planning is something that is too often overlooked, ignored, or dismissed entirely. Yet for resistance to be effective, it must follow the same principles. Rather than striking at weak points to cripple the operation or function of industrial activity, attacks are typically made against symbolic or superficial targets, leaving the operation of the brutal industrial machine unscathed. We cannot continue to stumble with strategic blindness, lashing out all but randomly, and no more than hoping to hit the mark.

Again, civilization is not a static force: every hour, more forests, prairies, mountains and species are destroyed and extirpated. Every hour, civilization is pulled further into biotic collapse. We are out of time. With everything at stake, we are not only justified in using any means necessary to bring down civilization; it is our moral mandate as living beings to do so. But for that resistance to truly be meaningful and effective, it must also be smart. It cannot be reactive and sporadic, but strategic and coordinated; designed not just to inflict damage or dent profit margins, but to disable the fundamental support-systems that sustain industrial civilization and bring it all to a screeching halt.

This is one reason why cyber-sabotage has such potential as a tactic to be used in dismantling industrial civilization. Most, if not all, of the critical systems that sustain it are by now reliant upon computer networks, which as the Saudi Aramco attack demonstrates, are very vulnerable to disruption.

Online attacks also lend themselves as a tactic to asymmetric forces, and allow a very small group of people to carry out decisive, coordinated strikes from a distance, rather than requiring people on the ground to coordinate across the country to achieve a similar effect.

Civilization’s relentless growth and accelerating technology-spiral has rendered murder and death across the planet on a scale that would be unimaginable if it weren’t the horrific reality we now find ourselves in. But this process of unceasing centralization and control has also become its weakness, and for all its imposing gigantism, the tower of civilization is incredibly unstable, and now begins to sway precariously. It’s time to push with all our might, and topple it once and for all.

Learning to leverage key systems against themselves is crucial to the success of a militant resistance movement, and ultimately is at the core of any effective strategy to disable the function of industrial civilization and ultimately to dismantle it. Cyber-sabotage presents a vital opportunity to use the dynamics of industrial operations—such as the complete dependency of the electric grid or oil refineries upon complex computer systems—to accomplish that most fundamental and necessary goal.

Time is Short: Reports, Reflections & Analysis on Underground Resistance is a biweekly bulletin dedicated to promoting and normalizing underground resistance, as well as dissecting and studying its forms and implementation, including essays and articles about underground resistance, surveys of current and historical resistance movements, militant theory and praxis, strategic analysis, and more. We welcome you to contact us with comments, questions, or other ideas at timeisshort@riseup.net.

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Categories: Cyberwar, Oil, Resistance, Strategy, Time is Short, Underground

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7 Comments on “Time is Short: Cyber-sabotage in Saudi Arabia”

  1. November 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    You are referring to a beautiful living flower born of Cosmos as cancer. You need a rest and someone to talk to.

    Cordially,

    Garrett

    • Michelle Jones
      November 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

      Hello Garret,

      Okay, civilization is a cosmic living flower. The species is venus fly trap. The whole earth is the fly.

      Michelle

    • reality
      November 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      you’re an idiot. you need a railroad spike driven through the nondescript mush that those of lesser intellect might refer to as your “brain” and for everyone but your new age airy-fairy denialist friends to CONTINUE ignoring you…

      noncordially yet most sincerely,

      reality

      p.s. visualize some pink bubbles of protection… it’ll help your day-glo aura heal from my lack of sensitivy to your emotional needs.

  2. Michelle Jones
    November 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Good day Alex,

    Great article. You were able to bring in an example and integrate its lessons smoothly.
    Thank you

  3. November 10, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    Reblogged this on Deep Green Resistance Colorado Plateau.

  4. November 23, 2012 at 2:31 am #

    Mmm, not sure civilization is dependent on advanced technology or the internet, both of which are epiphenomena and not its base. And civilization is certainly not brittle, and will not just “topple” if we give it a big push, as shown by Europe’s ability to completely rebuild itself after WW2 even after bombs were dropped, tanks were deployed, and millions of people were involved in destroying enemy infrastructure. If you think civilization is more “vulnerable” than ever, think again. The American empire is not going down because of some cyber-attacks. Even if (and by “if” I mean its never going to happen) the US–or let’s say “Civilization” in general– is critically attacked by cyber attacks, it is not going to fundamentally disrupt the key support structures that facilitate production and consumption. It might set the process back, but its not going to change the nature of relations humanity has to the earth. Electricity is a relatively new phenomenon, and humans were destroying the planet long before the internet came about.

    Even without computer systems, the internet, or oil refineries, people would be exploiting the earth’s resources as fast as they could turn around and sell it for a profit. Asymmetric warfare is good for draining an invading force’s resources and will over many years, but it will not work for a planetary movement that needs to turn things around in under 5 years. Civilization/capitalism is much too decentralized and resilient to succumb to such asinine strategies as militant attacks on infrastructure, which will no doubt be much too small to have any effect. War is inherently destructive, and even if your “war” is against the tools of destruction, the fact that you are setting yourself up as an enemy means that your opposition, i.e. “the system”, will only reaffirm itself in relation to what it perceives as terrorists and do everything it can to ensure the continuity of business as usual.

    Without “peace”, or a proactive or positive agenda, people will not see any alternative to the current state other than what they perceive to be the violent destruction inherent in conflict, which is what DGR stands for. My suggestion is you start concentrating on Goal 2/Strategy E actions so people start taking this organization seriously as a legitimate source for alternative power systems.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Time is Short: Cyber-sabotage in Saudi Arabia « Earth First! Newswire - February 15, 2013

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