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

In recent years, Australia has experienced a series of significant cyber security breaches that have impacted businesses and individuals alike. These incidents highlight the growing threat of cyber attacks and the importance of robust security measures. For Australian businesses, understanding how these breaches occurred can help them protect their own data and avoid similar pitfalls. Below, we’ve listed the major cyber breaches in Australia that have had the biggest impact on the largest number of people.

Key Takeaways

  • The RI Advice Group breach in August 2020 exposed the vulnerabilities in financial services, leading to legal actions and highlighting the need for stronger cyber security infrastructure.

  • Canon faced a ransomware attack in August 2020, resulting in data leaks after the company refused to negotiate with attackers, underscoring the risks and decisions companies face during such incidents.

  • Canva's data breach in May 2019 affected 137 million users, demonstrating the scale at which cyber attacks can impact global user bases and the importance of immediate response and mitigation.

  • The HWL Ebsworth cyberattack in April 2023 involved sensitive data from government departments, illustrating the severe implications of breaches on national security and public trust.

  • Australia's position in global cyber security rankings reveals both strengths and areas needing improvement, emphasizing the necessity for continuous advancements and vigilance in cyber defense.

Major Cyber Security Breaches in Australia (2018-2024)

Australia has witnessed numerous cyber security breaches over the years, impacting both large organizations and individuals. Understanding these incidents can help businesses and individuals better protect their data and systems.

Overview of Significant Incidents

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

Impact on Businesses and Individuals

The repercussions of these breaches are far-reaching. Businesses face financial losses, reputational damage, and legal consequences, while individuals suffer from identity theft and privacy violations.

Lessons Learned

From these incidents, several key lessons have emerged:

  1. Importance of robust security measures: Ensuring that systems are well-protected can prevent many breaches.

  2. Regular updates and patches: Keeping software up-to-date is crucial in mitigating vulnerabilities.

  3. Employee training: Educating staff about cyber threats can reduce the risk of human error leading to breaches.

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 into the system without detection. This incident highlighted severe inadequacies in the company's cyber security infrastructure, including the discovery of passwords stored in text files on the server desktop.

Legal Actions Taken

Following the breach, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) took legal action against the RI Advice Group. ASIC's lawsuit emphasized the company's repeated failures to secure its systems, which ultimately led to the breach. The legal proceedings underscored the importance of robust cyber security measures for financial services companies.

Preventive Measures

In response to the breach, several preventive measures were recommended to avoid future incidents:

  • Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all system access.

  • Regularly updating and patching software to address vulnerabilities.

  • Conducting frequent security audits and risk assessments.

  • Training employees on cyber security best practices.

Canon Ransomware Attack – August 2020

Incident Summary

In August 2020, Canon faced a significant ransomware attack. The attackers managed to infiltrate Canon's IT systems, leading to a major data incident. Despite the severity, Canon refused to negotiate with the ransomware attackers, resulting in the data being leaked online.

Company's Response

Canon's response to the attack was swift but firm. They chose not to engage with the attackers, which unfortunately led to the public release of sensitive data. The company focused on mitigating the damage and securing their systems to prevent future breaches.

Data Leaked

The ransomware attack led to the exposure of a substantial amount of data. This included personal information of employees and customers, as well as internal documents. The refusal to negotiate with the attackers highlighted Canon's stance on not giving in to cybercriminals.

Canva Data Breach – May 2019

Extent of the Breach

In May 2019, Australian unicorn Canva suffered a monumental data breach impacting 137 million users. The cybercriminal identified as Ghosticplayers breached Canva's defenses 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

Response and Mitigation

Upon discovering the breach, Canva promptly took action to mitigate the damage. The company notified affected users and advised them to change their passwords as a precautionary measure. Additionally, Canva worked closely with law enforcement agencies to investigate the breach and enhance their security protocols to prevent future incidents.

Long-term Consequences

The long-term consequences of the Canva data breach were significant. The breach not only affected millions of users but also raised concerns about the security practices of tech companies. Canva faced criticism for its handling of the breach, with some users expressing dissatisfaction with the company's communication and transparency. The incident served as a wake-up call for businesses to prioritize cybersecurity and implement stronger measures to protect user data.

HWL Ebsworth Cyberattack – April 2023

In April 2023, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers (HWLE) experienced a significant cyberattack. The attack was attributed to a Russian-linked hacker group, which claimed to have published sensitive files on the dark web. This incident highlighted the increasing prevalence of cyber-attacks targeting major organizations.

The breach resulted in the exposure of a vast amount of data, including sensitive information from various government agencies. The hackers claimed to have leaked 2.5 million files, affecting 65 agencies. Notably, the Tasmanian Government and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) were among the entities impacted.

The Australian government took immediate action following the breach. The Albanese government, which lost national security information in the hack, coordinated with cybersecurity experts to mitigate the damage. The incident underscored the need for robust cybersecurity measures to protect national security information.

Australia's Position in Global Cyber Security

Statistics and Rankings

Australia has made significant strides in improving its cyber security posture. According to recent surveys, Australia has a surprise spot on the list of most-hacked countries, highlighting the urgent need for robust cyber defenses. The 2023-2030 Australian Cyber Security Strategy aims to position Australia as a world leader in cyber security by 2030.

Comparative Analysis

When compared to other nations, Australia's cyber security measures are continually evolving. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) has emphasized that while government initiatives are crucial, businesses must also implement additional data breach prevention controls to enhance security standards.

Future Outlook

The future of Australia's cyber security looks promising with the appointment of the country's first national cyber security boss. This move is part of a broader effort to step up responses to growing cyber threats. The strategy is the roadmap that will help realise the Australian government's vision of becoming a world leader in cyber security by 2030.

Protecting Your Business from Cyber Threats

Common Vulnerabilities

Understanding common vulnerabilities is the first step in protecting your business from cyber threats. These vulnerabilities can include outdated software, weak passwords, and unpatched systems. Protecting your business from cyber threats is crucial as scams, email attacks, and malicious software can cost a lot of time and money.

Best Practices

To safeguard your business, consider implementing the following best practices:

  1. Regularly update and patch your software.

  2. Use strong, unique passwords and enable multi-factor authentication.

  3. Conduct regular security audits and vulnerability assessments.

  4. Train employees on cybersecurity awareness and protocols.

  5. Backup data regularly and ensure secure storage.

Resources and Tools

There are numerous resources and tools available to help businesses enhance their cybersecurity posture. Some of these include:

  • Cyber liability insurance to mitigate financial risks.

  • Security software for threat detection and prevention.

  • Online training programs for employee education.

  • Third-party services for comprehensive security assessments.


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 and learning from the mistakes of others, Australian businesses can better protect their own data and avoid becoming the next victim. It is essential to stay informed about the latest threats and to implement basic precautionary measures such as updating software, applying multi-factor authentication, and using unique and complex passwords. By doing so, we can collectively enhance our cybersecurity posture and make Australia a safer place in the digital age.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Some of the major cyber security breaches in Australia during this period include incidents involving RI Advice Group, Canon, Canva, and HWL Ebsworth.

How did the RI Advice Group breach occur in August 2020?

The breach involved a hacker spending 155 hours logged into the system without detection, exploiting inadequate cyber security measures.

What was the impact of the Canon ransomware attack in August 2020?

The attack led to Canon's data being leaked online after the company refused to negotiate with the ransomware attackers.

How many users were affected by the Canva data breach in May 2019?

The Canva data breach affected approximately 137 million users.

What type of data was compromised in the HWL Ebsworth cyberattack in April 2023?

The HWL Ebsworth cyberattack compromised data related to government departments and agencies, which was later published on the dark web.

What are some basic preventive measures to protect against cyber breaches?

Basic preventive measures include updating software, applying multi-factor authentication, and using unique and complex passwords.

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