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Ransomware group threatens water company with worrying claim

The ransomware group dubbed Cl0p recently claimed an attack on UK-based utility supplier South Staffs Water and stated that they could control the chemical composition of water supplies.

On August 15, Cl0p published a collection of stolen documents on its leak site. The data contained passport scans, driving licences, screenshots of wastewater treatment software user interfaces and more. The group claimed to have obtained more than 5TB worth of data and had “access to every system”.

South Staffs Water confirmed they were experiencing disruption to their corporate IT network. However, it had not affected their ability to supply safe water.

Although there is evidence of a successful attack and data exfiltration, ransomware groups are renowned for exaggerating the truth of their attacks and there is currently insufficient evidence to validate their claims of having access to “every system”, a substantial amount of data, and their ability to contaminate the water supply.

The group have stated they will not encrypt any of the data belonging to the victim because doing so would violate the group’s policy to not attack critical infrastructure or healthcare organisations.

Its unconventional approach to ransomware saw it allegedly exfiltrate data from the water supplier and request money for its return, rather than encrypting the data and disrupting services. Despite this, Cl0p warned other groups may not be as sympathetic.

The group stated it had access to critical systems including supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software used for managing industrial processes. It's in this case that Cl0p claimed it had access to the tools that controlled the chemical composition of water supplies.

Although there has been limited disruption to the services, it demonstrates that critical infrastructure remains a viable and attractive target despite ransomware groups' key motivation being financial gain.

It is fairly common for these groups to sell access, and in this instance, the access could be used to inflict damage and cause risk to life.

Cl0p has been active since 2019 and has recently increased attacks, including those on critical infrastructure.

To best protect against growing risk, organisations are encouraged to implement a defence in depth approach by following NCSC guidance.



Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).



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