A destructive computer virus attack in Saudi Arabia is now bringing a great number of expats hanging on the thread while they cannot renew or transfer their iqamas as government and private agency databases are being affected by the virus attack.
Executive director of the NCSC’s Strategic Development and Communication, Dr. Abbad Al-Abbad, said that counteractive measures should be sustainable and continuous to prevent the recurrence of such destructive cyber attacks, blaming the latest breach on poor adherence to security protocols. He also stressed the need for better education, such as teaching staff not to click on links in suspicious emails.
The Saudi Ministry of Labor and Social Development has yet to recover and bring its computer network back online after the devastating Shamoon malware attack last Jan. 23,2017.
Expatriates in the Kingdom are unable to renew or transfer their residence permits (iqamas) until the issue is being resolved in maybe a week , a month, a year, nobody really knows at this point.
Saad Al-Ali, owner of a contracting firm, said that the disruption of the ministry’s computer networks has put him and other employers in an unfavorable and shameful situation.
“For the past two weeks, all my attempts to renew iqamas of four expatriates working at my firm have failed due to the disruption of Labor Ministry’s services,” Al-Ali said, adding that the affected employers are afraid of incurring fine, jail term or even recruitment ban because of the issue.
According to experts, Shamoon is known to disrupt computers by overwriting the master book record, making it impossible for them to start up .
"Shamoon renders the computer unusable by overriding the hard disk with garbage," said Candid Wueest, security analyst and researcher at Symantec.
An alert from the telecoms authority earlier this month advised all parties to be vigilant for attacks from the Shamoon 2 variant of the virus that in 2012 crippled thousands of computers at Saudi Aramco.
Saudi Arabia Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)’s Abdulrahman Al-Friah confirmed that at least 22 institutions were affected by the Shamoon virus as of this writing.
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