In recent news, Brenntag a leading world-wide distributor of chemicals; was attacked in a ransomware attack by a hacker group known as DarkSide. The ransomware group extracted a whopping $4.4 million dollars in Bitcoin from the second largest chemical distributor in North America.
A world-wide chemical distribution company, Brenntag is headquartered in Essen, Germany with operations in 77 countries. The distributor has 17,000 employees spread out across 670 sites across the globe. The company has 190 sites in the U.S. and Canada and has around 40,000 customers in those regions. Brenntag distributes a variety of chemicals and essential materials used by the pool industry.
Pool Chemical Distributor Hacked
Brenntag confirmed that it suffed a “limited security information incident”, but insiders at Bleeping Computer say that the distributor was looking at a substantial data loss of over 150 GB of stole data including:
- Financial and accounting information
- Sensitive Accounting & HR information
- Contracts, NDAs, Marketing, Legal
- Projects, Chemical Formulas
The hackers originally demanded 133.65 Bitcoin ($4.79 million) but after protracted negotiations with the company, finally accepted the payment of $4.4 million on May 11th.
The ransomware attack targeted Brenntag’s North America division. The hackers encrypted devices and stole unencrypted files off the network. To establish their claims, DarkSide created a private leak page that detailed the contents in question as well as a few screenshots of some files.
Company executives and shareholders both want to know how hackers gained access to Brenntag’s network. DarkSide is a (RaaS) or Ransomware-as-a-Service. Similar to other cloud severices, this one operates in a fashion that allows ransomware developers to partner with hackers who are able to gain network access to deliver the payload.
As part of the deal, DarkSide team members typically earn a 20-30% commission on the ransom with the rest going to the affiliates who performed the attack. In the case of Brenntag’s hack, a DarkSide affiliate claims to obtained access after buying stolen network credentials.
This isn’t the first ransomware attack the group has conducted that has hit the mass media. Recently DarkSide attacked the Colonial Pipeline. The Biden administration admonished Russia who they are certain have been behind recent attacks.
“We are working to try to get to the place where we have sort of an international standard that governments knowing that criminal activities are happening from their territory, that we all — we all move on those — those criminal enterprises,” said Biden. “I expect that’s one of the topics I’ll be talking about with — with President Putin.”
Russia has denied any involvement in other of the two attacks. One thing is clear though, the number of ransomware attacks against US corporations is increasing, both in frequency and in the ransom amounts being demanded. Experts say this incident is a perfect example of how imperative it is for large scale pool companies, manufacturers and distributors to begin paying closer attention to their network security. Brenntag North America learned this lesson the hard way.
Claffey Pools Acquired by Riverbend Sandler Pools
The pool industry has seen a spate of recent acquisition announcements. The latest, being the recent acquisition of Claffey pools by Riverbend Sandler Pools. Backed by Chicago-based Concentric Equity Partners, they are continuing efforts to consolidate the swimming pool construction and maintenance industry in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.
The acquisition agreement was signed on December 31, 2021 but only made public on Thursday. Full details about the exact terms of the deal were not disclosed.
This marks the third major pool builder purchased by the holding company, after acquiring Pulliam Pools back in November. The acquisition of the Fort Worth-based firm made it one of the nation’s largest pool construction companies.
This recent acquisition of Claffey Pools which is ranked within the nations top pool construction companies with about $32 million in reported residential construction revenue in 2020. A builder of high-end inground swimming pools, Claffey’s average pool project costs around $142,000.
Riverbend Sandler intends to make considerable advancements by acquiring existing service and maintenance companies, in addition to focusing on construction. Consequently, they hope to become a key service provider in the state’s pool service and maintenance sector.
This in itself appears to be a key decision point for the Claffeys who are looking to expand their pool service and maintenance divisions. Last year’s Texas Pool freeze caused unprecedented amounts of damage across the Lone Star state and saw Claffey perform over 1,000 repairs as a result.
In regards to any restructuring of the organization, the Claffeys, along with their 95 employees, will remain with the company. Riverbend Sandler has announced its intentions to continue its expansion. It will continue to concentrate on Texas, for the time being, looking seriously to expand into the Austin, Houston, and San Antonio markets after having established the predominant marketshare in the Dallas area.
GENESIS Announces Newest Platinum Sponsor: Pool Magazine
(Alexandria, Va.) – GENESIS is pleased to announce its newest Platinum Sponsor, Pool Magazine. The GENESIS sponsorship program showcases companies that are dedicated to the highest standards of best practices, quality, and ethics in the pool and spa industry.
“We look forward to collaborating with PHTA and expanding our relationship as a Platinum Sponsor,” says Joe Trusty, CEO & Editor-in-Chief. “We are excited for this next chapter and look forward to making a positive impact on the industry.”
As a Platinum Sponsor, Pool Magazine will have the opportunity to maximize its brand visibility, connect with thousands of engaged industry professionals, and unlock valuable opportunities.
“We are delighted to add Pool Magazine to our distinguished list of Platinum Sponsors,” says Janay Rickwalder, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations of PHTA. “Pool Magazine has everything we look for in a partner: quality services that can benefit our members, an understanding of the importance of continuing education, and a finger on the pulse of industry trends. I am excited for this collaboration and to working together in 2022.”
For more information, please contact Janay Rickwalder, PHTA’s Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.357.3918.
About the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), a non-profit organization with nearly 3,500 members from around the world, was established in 1956 to support, promote, and protect the common interests of the $36.5B pool, hot tub and spa industry. PHTA provides education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth to increase our members’ professionalism, knowledge and profitability. Additionally, PHTA facilitates the expansion of swimming, water safety and related research and outreach activities aimed at introducing more people to swimming, making swimming environments safer and keeping pools open to serve communities. For more information, visit www.phta.org.
Pool Contractors Gift New Pool To Grandma After Disaster
A group of pool contractors are the answer to one homeowners prayers. For years, Kitty Smitth, an 80-year old resident of Indianapolis, had dreamed of having an inground swimming pool for her 29 grandchildren and great-grandchildren to enjoy. Smith had just recently used her life savings to purchase a home and property in South Indianapolis that she was hoping would allow her to finally realize those dreams.
Smith acknowledges that the home she purchased needed a lot of work inside, but held out hope of enjoying the backyard with her family. For Smith and her grandchildren, the backyard pool meant a safe haven from the dangers of the pandemic that was sweeping across the country last summer.
“They were here, swimming and playing. I can’t tell you how great that was. This has just been my dream my whole life,” she told reporters.
Future summer dreams would be put to an end this February when a winter storm caused her pool to collapse into a heap of disintegrating concrete and collapsed fiberglass walls. Smith was horrified to find that her backyard pool had collapsed in on itself in the night. “My whole body just started going numb and shaking. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she told reporters.
An engineering report was conducted to determine the cause of the failure. Analysis determined that a leak may have contributed to its collapse. A new pool cover, which had just been installed, combined with the inadequate water level in the pool may have contributed to adding stress on the walls of the pool.
To add insult to injury, Smith quickly found out that her homeowners insurance would not cover the damage. Despite being a customer of the same company for over 40 years and having a policy that includes the replacement cost of an inground pool, her insurance company refused to pay a cent. They claimed her policy excluded any leak in the structure of the pool.
Smith was faced with an impossible problem. The cost of installing a new inground pool would be at least $60,000 plus an additional $20,000 for hauling away the debris from the old pool that had collapsed. “I just put everything into my house”, Smith told reporters, indicating that she didn’t have the financial resources to rebuild the pool. She stated that she felt like her insurance company had left her high and dry.
Smith contacted investigative reporters and discussed her problem with them. The reporters shared her story with some folks they knew in the pool industry that could help lend a hand. Ultimately, eight separate Indiana companies came together headed up under Automatic Pool Covers owner, Michael Shebek. Shebek pooled his resources and network to help put together a team that will help rebuild Smith’s backyard.
- Crone Customs Pools – Project Lead / Permits
- Only Alpha Pool Products – Donating Steel Walls
- Pools of Fun – Donating and installing the liner. Provide the water to fill the pool.
- Modish Pools – Donating concrete and labor to rebuild the decking
- Hendrick Pool and Lawn Service – Donating plumbing work for the pool
- C Ray Pools – Donating plumbing and electrical work.
- Automatic Pool Covers – Donating a new pool cover and providing other help.
- Cover Care – Donating installation of the pool cover
What is truly incredible about this story is that although some of the companies on this list are competitors, they are all united in the single goal to help one local resident recover the usage of her pool.
Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday, Smith was greeted with the surprise of a lifetime. The contractors who have agreed to rebuild her pool at zero cost, showed up at her house along with the 13news team to break the good news. Overwhelmed with emotion, Smith hugged them all and said “I don’t know your names but I know your hearts,” telling the contractors, “I love you.”
Smith will hopefully have a new pool to enjoy with her grandchildren this summer. The contractors have all assured her that the unsightly mess in her backyard will be removed and a new pool installed. The entire cost of the project is estimated to cost approximately $90,000.
“Just no words. There aren’t words big enough to thank everyone,” Smith said. “I’m just so thankful.”
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