Texas Panhandle Drinking Water System Hacked by ‘Russian’ Cyber Attackers

Hackers have hijacked Texas Panhandle towns’ drinking water systems, according to reports.

Authorities revealed that the cyber attackers gained control of the water systems for three small towns in rural Texas.

The first of the three attacks targeted the town of Muleshoe in January but details have only just been made public.

Authorities are claiming that Russian government-linked hackers are behind the attacks.

The hack in the Texas Panhandle town is the first time Russia is suspected of being behind the disruption of a US drinking water system.

Iran and China are believed to have carried out similar attacks.

The hack in Muleshoe, a community of 5,000 not far from the New Mexico border, led to the tower overflowing with thousands of gallons for almost an hour.

The issue led to a state of emergency being declared.

The hacking group identified as the Cyber Army of Russia Reborn (CARR) has appeared to claim responsibility for hacking the water systems.

The group posted a video on Telegram of the town’s manipulated water-control systems, showing how they reset the controls.

“We’re starting another raid on the USA,” the message in Russian said, capped by a smiley face emoji.

“In this video, there are a couple of critical infrastructure objects, namely water supply systems.”

The video then shows the hackers changing values and settings for the utilities’ control systems.

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The group has previously conducted DDoS attacks on Ukrainian organizations and government agencies.

Authorities claim the group is allied with the Russian government.

However, it has not been confirmed that the two are linked.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear what effects the manipulation of the water systems has had.

Several local officials have acknowledged the cyberattacks while confirming some form of disruption.

The attack in Muleshoe was one of three against small towns in the rural Texas Panhandle.

Local officials said the public was not put in any danger and the attempts were reported to federal authorities.

“There were 37,000 attempts in four days to log in to our firewall,” said Mike Cypert, city manager of Hale Center, which is home to about 2,000 residents.

The attempted hack failed as the city “unplugged” the system and operated it manually, he added.

In Muleshoe, hackers caused the water system to overflow before it was shut down and taken over manually by officials, city manager Ramon Sanchez told CNN.

“The incident was quickly addressed and resolved,” Sanchez said in a statement, according to KAMC-TV.

“The city’s water disinfectant system was not affected, and the public water system nor the public was in any danger.”

At least one of the attacks was linked this week by Mandiant, a U.S. cybersecurity firm, to the shadowy Russian hacktivist group CARR.

Cybersecurity researchers say CARR was among groups suspected of Russian government ties that engaged last year in low-complexity attacks against Ukraine and its allies, including denial-of-service data barrages that temporarily knock websites offline.

Sometimes such groups claim responsibility for attacks that were actually carried out by Kremlin military intelligence hackers, Microsoft reported in December.

Cypert, the Hale Center city manager, said he has turned the information over to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The FBI declined to comment, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a branch of DHS, referred questions to the cities that were targeted.

In Lockney, about 25 miles east of Hale Center and home to around 1,500 people, cyberattackers were thwarted before they could access that town’s water system, city manager Buster Poling said.

“It didn’t cause any problems except being a nuisance,” Poling said.

Last year CISA put out an advisory following November hacks on U.S. water facilities attributed to Iranian state groups who said they were targeting facilities using Israeli equipment.

Deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger said in December that attacks by Iranian hackers — as well as a separate spate of ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry — should be seen as a call to action by utilities and industry to tighten cybersecurity.

In March, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan and Jake Sullivan, assistant to the president for National Security Affairs, sent a letter to the nation’s governors asking them to take steps to protect the water supply, including assessing cybersecurity and planning for a cyberattack.

“Drinking water and wastewater systems are an attractive target for cyberattacks because they are a lifeline critical infrastructure sector but often lack the resources and technical capacity to adopt rigorous cybersecurity practices,” Regan and Sullivan wrote.

READ MORE – Rancher Raises Alarm as Feds Begin Bulldozing Texas Farms

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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