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New Dragos Report Highlights Threats Targeting Water & Wastewater Systems in the GCC

Dragos published the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Water & Wastewater Systems Cyber Threat Perspective that highlights cyber threats currently targeting water and wastewater systems in the GCC region. The GCC countries are situated in an area that suffers from a scarcity of fresh water, where most of the Arabian Peninsula is made up of deserts with minimal natural freshwater resources. Without sustainable drinking water sources in most of the major cities in the region, life can be challenging and almost impossible for millions of people in the vast majority of GCC countries. The impact of a successful disruptive cyber attack against the GCC’s water and wastewater systems (WWS) organizations could be catastrophic for the residents of the region’s countries due to their reliance on water desalination plants.

Key Findings

Some of the key findings of this threat report include:

  • Cyber risk to an organization depends on organizational cyber security awareness and preparation. Given the importance of the WWS vertical in the GCC region in the context of continuous regional political tensions, WWS organizations could be prime targets for any politically motivated adversary.
  • The growth in the WWS sector will likely attract cyber criminals and other adversaries to increase their activities, especially against small to medium-size WWS organizations.
  • Internet exposed assets, the digital convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) technologies and networks, and supply-chain or third-party compromises increase the risk surface for WWS organizations in the GCC.

In addition, the WWS sector greatly depends on oil and natural gas (ONG) as an energy source. Historical effects and impacts of threat groups impacting the ONG sector in the GCC region align with what they would gain from attacking the WWS sector.

Threat Groups

Dragos tracks six threat groups and various ransomware groups impacting GCC industrial organizations. Dragos-designated threat groups covered in this report include:

Common Attack Scenarios

The GCC threat report considers the following common attack scenarios that threaten the water and wastewater systems sector in the GCC:

  • Industrial control systems (ICS)-focused attacks
  • Espionage and destructive attacks
  • Ransomware
  • Exposed assets
  • Supply chain and third-party threats
  • Vulnerabilities

Defensive Recommendations

Finally, the GCC threat report provides detailed recommendations on how cybersecurity professionals can defend their ICS/OT networks against cyber threats. The list of recommendations includes:

  • Defensible Architecture Recommendations
  • Monitoring and Visibility Recommendations
  • Incident Response Plans
  • Remote Access Authentication
  • Key Vulnerability Management

The WWS sector is a crucial foundation for civil society in the GCC, as WWS organizations in the region account for around 60% of the global desalinated water. The WWS sector in GCC remains at risk given the continual political tensions and the presence of other industrial vertically focused threats. Dragos continues to monitor malicious threat groups and threats targeting the WWS sector in GCC.

Get the complete analysis

Download the full threat report for a complete view of industrial cyber threats targeting water & wastewater systems in the GCC.

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