Inc Ransom Claims to Be Behind 'Cyber Incident' at UK City Council


The cybercriminal group INC Ransom has claimed responsibility for the ongoing cybersecurity incident at Leicester City Council, marking the first involvement of an established cybercrime gang in the local authority's IT troubles. According to a post on INC Ransom's leak blog, they assert having stolen 3 TB of council data before deleting it shortly after publication. This tactic, known as "flashing," is often employed to prompt responses from leadership teams during ransom negotiations. Leicester City Council, which has been experiencing system disruptions since March 7, appears to be gradually recovering its services, with most online portals and customer service lines now operational. However, the council remains silent on whether any data was compromised due to ongoing criminal investigations.

Security Officer Comments:
INC Ransom's modus operandi involves a double extortion model, suggesting that some data may have been stolen before the attack. The group has also recently targeted NHS Dumfries and Galloway, compromising sensitive medical data. These incidents highlight the potential for attackers to leverage stolen data for convincing phishing attacks, exploiting residents' trust in official communications.

Suggested Corrections:
Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.

Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk-based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.

Test your incident response plan: There's nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?

Check Your Security Team's Work: Use a 3rd party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.

Segment your networks: There's been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It's critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident.

Train employees: Email remains the most vulnerable attack vector for organizations. Users should be trained how to avoid and spot phishing emails. Multi Factor authentication can help prevent malicious access to sensitive services.