Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): On Friday (January 10, 2020), the state-run Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper published the following: "A failed Iranian cyberattack on the Bahrain Oil Company (Bapco)." An IT website said a cyberattack affected the oil company's network.
Oil Minister Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa denied in a statement on Sunday (January 12, 2020) that there had been any attack from outside targeting the company's systems, saying it was "just a technical glitch," Al-Watan newspaper reported.
The Oil Minister did not tell the truth, as the damage Bapco suffered was serious.
The Minister said in his statement that "Bapco's main systems were not subjected to external cyberattacks, but rather an internal technical glitch that was dealt with in a record time."
He explained that "the company's main systems were not damaged at all. Only some computers were damaged. Bapco used its systems and the company's operations were not affected by anything."
An informed source from the company spoke to Bahrain Mirror and said that "the cyber penetration of Bapco was real and destructive. It caused serious damage." The source pointed out that "the company had to replace more than 2,000 computers, after most of the company's equipment, especially those of the refining department, were shut down for two weeks."
The source added that "the government contacted a global technical company regarding the problem, and five high-level experts were sent to Bahrain to solve the issue. When the experts arrived, they saw that the hackers ravaged the company and its systems. The experts had to take radical measures, starting with replacing more than 2,000 computers proven to have been hacked."
It went on to say that the "experts discovered that all the company's data was controlled by the hackers and that the data was encrypted so that no one can access it," stressing that "without exaggeration, more than 95% of the computers were disabled and damaged especially in the refining department, which is one of the most significant departments in Bapco."
"The cyberattack started around Christmas (December 25) and continued until last week. Everyone was completely helpless in the face of the hackers. The company began to replace some devices but it later discovered that the damage is too big for repair, and that the losses due to the hardware malfunction were increasing every day, especially in the refining and production departments. Without exaggeration, the losses reached millions."
"Now the whole company's internal network will be re-engineered. Ironically, the Minister is still in his chair after this calamity that befell the company, which is considered the most important company in the Bahraini economy," the source stressed.
It is worth mentioning that this is not the first attack of its kind to target sensitive economic or security institutions in Bahrain. In August 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a special report, in which it revealed that hackers had penetrated several electronic networks, the first of which was the network of National Security Agency, and then the networks of Bahrain Alba Aluminium, Office of the First Deputy Prime Minister (the crown prince), as well as the Electricity and Water Authority.
It seems that it is very far-fetched to expect that the oil minister would be held accountable by the king, as the 47-year-old oil minister is the son of Bahrain Military Commander-in-Chief Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, and his uncle is the Royal Court Minister Khalid bin Ahmed, so it is impossible for the elected chamber in the Bahraini parliament to hold the minister accountable. Bahrain's legislative authority appears to be at its weakest, and is absent from discussing pivotal issues in the island kingdom such as the political crisis the country has been witnessing since 2011, and the situation of political prisoners, especially those sentenced to death.