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Recent Cyber Security Breaches in Australia: What You Need to Know

For Australian businesses, knowing how these cyber breaches occurred can help them protect their own data by ensuring they don’t allow the same thing happen to them. Below, we’ve listed the major cyber breaches in Australia that have had the biggest impact on the largest number of people.

Key Takeaways

  • Australian businesses need to be vigilant about their cybersecurity measures to prevent similar breaches.

  • Major cyber breaches have affected large organizations and a significant number of people in Australia.

  • Learning from past incidents can help in mitigating future cyber threats.

  • Updating software and using complex passwords are basic yet effective measures to enhance cybersecurity.

  • Government and organizational responses play a crucial role in managing and mitigating the impact of cyber breaches.

Major Cyber Security Breaches in Australia (2018-2024)

Australia has witnessed numerous cyber security breaches between 2018 and 2024, affecting both large organizations and countless individuals. Understanding these incidents is crucial for businesses aiming to safeguard their data and prevent similar occurrences.

Overview of Notable Incidents

The complete list of data breaches in Australia for 2018-2024 includes several high-profile cases. These breaches have targeted various sectors, from retail to government institutions, highlighting the pervasive nature of cyber threats.

Impact on Businesses and Consumers

The repercussions of these breaches are far-reaching, impacting both businesses and consumers. Companies face financial losses, reputational damage, and legal consequences, while consumers often deal with compromised personal information and financial fraud.

Lessons Learned

From these incidents, several key lessons have emerged:

  1. Proactive Security Measures: Implementing robust security protocols can mitigate risks.

  2. Employee Training: Regular training on cyber security best practices is essential.

  3. Incident Response Plans: Having a well-defined response plan can minimize damage during a breach.

RI Advice Group Breach - August 2020

Details of the Breach

In August 2020, the RI Advice Group experienced a significant cyber security breach. The breach was notable for the hacker's prolonged access, spending 155 hours logged in without detection. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) took legal action against the company, highlighting the inadequate cyber security infrastructure. Alarmingly, passwords were found stored in plain text files on the server desktop.

Legal Repercussions

The legal repercussions for RI Advice Group were severe. ASIC sued the financial services company for repeated hacks, emphasizing the need for robust cyber security measures. This lawsuit served as a wake-up call for other financial institutions to reassess their cyber security protocols.

Preventive Measures

In response to the breach, RI Advice Group implemented several preventive measures:

  • Enhanced monitoring systems to detect unauthorized access more swiftly.

  • Regular security audits to identify and rectify vulnerabilities.

  • Employee training programs focused on cyber security best practices.

Canon Ransomware Attack - August 2020

Incident Summary

In August 2020, Canon faced a significant ransomware attack that resulted in the leak of sensitive data. The attackers demanded a ransom, but Canon refused to negotiate, leading to the data being published online.

Company's Response

Canon's response to the attack was swift. They immediately initiated an internal investigation and worked with cybersecurity experts to mitigate the damage. The company also informed affected parties and provided resources to help them protect their information.

Data Leaked

The data leaked included sensitive information such as employee records, financial data, and internal communications. This breach highlighted the importance of robust cybersecurity measures and the potential consequences of ransomware attacks.

Canva Data Breach - May 2019

In May 2019, Canva, a popular online design tool, experienced a significant data breach. The breach impacted approximately 137 million users. A cybercriminal identified as Ghosticplayers breached Canva's defences but was stopped by Canva when they detected malicious activity in their systems. Unfortunately, this interception did not happen soon enough. The threat actor had time to access the following user data:

  • Usernames

  • Real names

  • Email addresses

  • Country data

  • Encrypted passwords

  • Partial payment data

The breach had a profound impact on Canva's user base. Many users, who considered Canva their go-to platform for all things design, were left concerned about the safety of their personal information. The exposed data included sensitive information such as encrypted passwords and partial payment data, which could potentially be exploited by malicious actors.

Following the breach, Canva took several steps to enhance its security measures. These included:

  1. Implementing more robust encryption protocols.

  2. Enhancing their monitoring systems to detect malicious activity more swiftly.

  3. Conducting comprehensive security audits to identify and rectify vulnerabilities.

By taking these steps, Canva aimed to restore user trust and prevent future breaches.

HWL Ebsworth Cyberattack - April 2023

Affected Parties

On 26 April 2023, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers (HWLE), a prominent Australian law firm, experienced a significant cyberattack. The breach impacted numerous clients, including government agencies and private entities. The scale of the attack was extensive, with hackers claiming to have accessed and exfiltrated sensitive data.

Data Published on Dark Web

Following the breach, Russian-linked hackers taunted HWL Ebsworth by claiming to have published the stolen files on the dark web. The leaked data reportedly included confidential information from various clients, raising serious concerns about privacy and security. The hackers' actions have highlighted the increasing prevalence of cyber-attacks.

Government Response

The Australian government responded swiftly to the incident, emphasizing the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures. Several government agencies, including the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), were reportedly affected by the breach. The government has since initiated a comprehensive review of its cybersecurity protocols to prevent future incidents.

Latitude Financial Hack - April 2023

Stolen Financial Information

Latitude Financial was subject to a cyber-attack in March 2023 that resulted in the theft of personal information. The theft affected customers, with 328,000 individuals impacted. The stolen data included sensitive financial information, such as credit card details and personal identification numbers.

Vulnerability Exploited

The attackers gained access through staff logins used to attack third-party service providers. This breach highlights the importance of securing all access points within an organization, especially those involving third-party vendors.

Steps Taken to Mitigate Damage

Latitude Financial has taken several steps to mitigate the damage caused by the breach:

  1. Immediate notification to affected customers.

  2. Collaboration with cybersecurity experts to contain the breach.

  3. Offering free credit monitoring services to impacted individuals.

  4. Enhancing security measures to prevent future incidents.

Australia's Position in Global Cyber Security

Survey Results

Australia has made significant strides in improving its cyber security posture. According to a recent global survey, Australia has a surprise spot on the list of most-hacked countries. This underscores the rising problem of data breaches and cyber-crime in the nation. The survey results indicate that while Australia is making progress, there is still much work to be done to secure sensitive data and protect against cyber threats.

Comparative Analysis

When compared to other nations, Australia's cyber security measures are robust but not infallible. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) admits that proposed security frameworks only raise the baseline of security. It's up to each individual business to continue lifting this standard with additional data breach prevention controls. The 2023-2030 Australian Cyber Security Strategy is the roadmap that will help realise the Australian government's vision of becoming a world leader in cyber security by 2030.

Future Outlook

The future of Australia's cyber security looks promising but challenging. The government is working to build its cyber resilience against attacks and to ensure it's ready to rapidly respond to any data breaches. Some basic precautionary measures that every Australian could take to prevent data breaches include:

  • Updating software

  • Applying multi-factor authentication

  • Using unique and complex passwords


In conclusion, the recent cyber security breaches in Australia underscore the critical importance of robust cyber defenses for businesses of all sizes. By understanding how these breaches occurred, Australian businesses can take proactive steps to protect their own data and avoid similar incidents. The breaches highlighted in this article serve as a stark reminder of the evolving threats in the digital landscape and the need for continuous vigilance. Implementing basic precautionary measures such as updating software, applying multi-factor authentication, and using unique and complex passwords can significantly enhance cybersecurity. As the frequency and sophistication of cyber-attacks increase, staying informed and prepared is essential for safeguarding sensitive information and maintaining trust in the digital age.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some major cyber security breaches in Australia between 2018 and 2024?

Some major cyber security breaches in Australia between 2018 and 2024 include the RI Advice Group breach in August 2020, the Canon ransomware attack in August 2020, the Canva data breach in May 2019, the HWL Ebsworth cyberattack in April 2023, and the Latitude Financial hack in April 2023.

How did the RI Advice Group breach occur?

The RI Advice Group breach in August 2020 involved a hacker spending 155 hours logged into the company's systems without detection. The breach highlighted inadequate cyber security infrastructure, including passwords stored in text files on server desktops.

What was the impact of the Canon ransomware attack?

The Canon ransomware attack in August 2020 resulted in data being leaked online after the company refused to negotiate with ransomware attackers. This incident underscored the importance of having robust data protection and incident response plans.

How many users were affected by the Canva data breach?

The Canva data breach in May 2019 affected approximately 137 million users. The breach exposed user data and prompted Canva to implement significant security improvements post-breach.

What kind of data was compromised in the HWL Ebsworth cyberattack?

The HWL Ebsworth cyberattack in April 2023 led to the publication of sensitive data about government departments and agencies on the dark web. This breach had significant implications for national security and privacy.

What measures can Australian businesses take to prevent cyber breaches?

Australian businesses can prevent cyber breaches by updating software regularly, applying multi-factor authentication, using unique and complex passwords, and ensuring robust cyber security infrastructure. Learning from past breaches can also help in strengthening their defenses.

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