cyber daily logo

Breaking news and updates daily. Subscribe to our Newsletter

Breaking news and updates daily. Subscribe to our Newsletter X facebook linkedin Instagram Instagram

Report: Australian government agencies see a sharp increase in cyber attacks

Australia may not be the number one target of cyber attacks, but the HWL Ebsworth hack has more than made up for it.

user icon David Hollingworth
Thu, 30 Nov 2023
Report: Australian government agencies see a sharp increase in cyber attacks
expand image

New research from BlackBerry has painted a stark picture of the state of play when it comes to cyber attacks on government agencies.

Government entities were the third-most targeted sector during the quarter to August 2023 and ranked second when it comes to unique malware used in the attacks. Overall, the most targeted industry was healthcare, and the sector exposed to the most unique attacks was finance.

“A successful breach of a government entity can expose confidential personnel documents and other sensitive information,” BlackBerry said in its Quarterly Global Threat Intelligence Report, “as well as cause disruptions in critical government services and erode public trust in the government”.


What the report finds particularly worrisome is that attacks on government agencies have jumped nearly 50 per cent over the previous quarter, with 100,000 attacks recorded between June and August.

But while the entire Asia-Pacific and North American regions saw the most activity, the US and Australia have faced the brunt of attacks on their respective government sectors. Both countries experienced a more than 50 per cent increase in attacks for the quarter.

In Australia, BlackBerry attributes the jump in attacks to a ransomware attack on law firm HWL Ebsworth in April. The ALPHV ransomware gang was behind the third-party hack, which saw the data of many of the law firm’s clients leaked onto the darknet, including many government agencies.

In addition to impacting the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the gang “published data stolen from HWL Ebsworth on ALPHV’s dark web forum”.

“In addition, 65 Australian government departments and agencies were also victimised. In total, the attackers stole a reported 3.6 terabytes worth of data from the Australian government.”

In the US, it was the Clop ransomware gang causing third-party havoc through its exploitation of a widely reported vulnerability in Progress Software’s MOVEit file transfer application. The US Department of Energy was among the most high-profile of Clop’s victims.

Other major government hacks in the region include a ransomware attack on the Sri Lankan government that saw months of data lost due to a lack of backups, and in the United Kingdom, a historical hack of the UK Electoral Commission was revealed, which saw the data of more than 40 million voters exposed.

You can read the full Quarterly Global Threat Intelligence Report here.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

cyber daily subscribe
Be the first to hear the latest developments in the cyber industry.