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'Shamoon' virus most destructive yet for private sector, Panetta says

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WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - The "Shamoon" virus thatattacked Saudi Arabia's state oil company, ARAMCO, was probablythe most destructive attack the business s e ctor has seen todate, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday.

Addressing business leaders in New York, Panetta describedthe virus as sophisticated and noted that a similar attack dayslater struck Qatar's natural gas firm, Rasgas.

"More than 30,000 computers that it infected (at ARAMCO)were rendered useless, and had to be replaced," he said.

He said Shamoon included a routine called a "wiper," codedto self-execute, which replaced crucial system files with animage of a burning U.S. flag. It also overwrote all the realdata on the machine with what he called garbage data.

"Imagine the impact an attack like this would have on yourcompany," Panetta said, as he called for steps to bolster thenation's cyber defenses.

For Reuters coverage of the Shamoon virus, please clickhere:

In his speech, Panetta also cited recent denial-of-serviceattacks against major U.S. banks, which delayed or disruptedservices on customer websites.

"While this kind of tactic isn't new, the scale and speedwith which it happened was unprecedented," he said.

One U.S. official, briefing reporters before the speech oncondition of anonymity, said the United States knew who carriedout the attacks cited in Panetta's speech, but declined todisclose that information.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney)

((phillip.stewart@thomsonreuters.com)(1-202-898-8398)(Reuters

Messaging: phillip.stewart.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: USA CYBER/PENTAGON SHIMOON