BRASILIA, Sept 18 The head of Brazil's state-run company Petrobras said on Wednesday there was no evidence its computers had been hacked by a U.S. intelligence agency to give American companies the edge in bidding for a large off-shore oil field next month.
The Brazilian Senate has opened an investigation into revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on the private communications of Brazilians including their president, Dilma Rousseff, and the country's largest company Petrobras, which has made the world's most important deepwater oil discoveries in decades.
"There are no reports of a cyber attack on our information network," Petrobras president Maria das Graças Foster told a Senate committee hearing. "Our IT technicians say there was no breach or any sign of a hacking attempt if there was one."
Senators wanted to know whether the U.S. secret surveillance of the Internet, revealed in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published by Brazilian media, could have given American companies an advantage in the auction of the huge Libra field Oct. 21.
Brazil's Globo TV network published slides from an NSA presentation, dated May 2012, that it said was used to show new agents how to spy on computer networks of major companies like Petrobras and Google. The report did not say when the alleged spying took place, what data might have been gathered or what exactly the agency may have been seeking.
Foster said the revelations were "very disturbing" and "embarrassing" but she assured the Senate committee that Petrobras data does not travel by Internet and, in any case, seismic and other data for the bidding process was public information.
In the absence of any evidence of hacking, there is no reason for Brazil to postpone the Libra auction, she said.
Brazil will double its oil production to 4 million barrels per day equivalent by 2020 thanks to the deposits found below a layer of salt off its Atlantic coast, Foster said.
Rousseff on Tuesday called off plans for a state visit to Washington in October because of spying revelations. The decision is a big blow to relations between the two biggest economies in the Americas.