Australian Ransomware Threat Landscape 2023 – January to July 2023 – A Look into Cybersecurity’s Persistent Nemesis

Good day to my esteemed readers.

I trust everyone is well and maintaining a vigilant stance in light of recent noteworthy cyber events, particularly the Citrix NetScaler vulnerability (CVE-2023-3519) and the exploitation of the MOVEit vulnerability by the Cl0p ransomware group. The latter has affected 403 victims globally, including four Australian organisations.

Key Takeaways

  1. As of the current state, 42 organisations have already been identified as victims, and there is a strong likelihood of more being added to the list in the future.
  2. In the year 2023, the Australian ransomware landscape witnessed the emergence of new malicious actors, namely Cyclops, Akira, and 8Base, who have been actively victimizing organisations.
  3. One notable and intriguing tactic employed by the Cl0p ransomware group involved the creation of a dedicated site specifically targeting PwC clients, indicating a higher level of sophistication in their operations.
  4. Analysis of the targeted portfolios since January 2023 reveals that the Education and Healthcare sectors have experienced the most significant impact, followed closely by financial institutions and legal practices.
  5. Lockbit 3.0 ransomware group has garnered attention for its highly active and malicious activities, singling out nine victims on their data leak site, making them the most prominent threat actor victimizing Australian organisations. Other notable groups involved in ransomware attacks include ALPHV (aka Blackcat) and Cl0p.
  6. Throughout this period, stolen credentials and vulnerability exploitation have consistently been the primary initial access vectors leveraged by ransomware groups to infiltrate organisational networks and systems.

As an intelligence analyst, it is essential to understand the evolving threat landscape and the tactics employed by malicious actors. Ransomware attacks have become increasingly prevalent, and cyber-criminals continuously adapt their strategies to maximize their impact on targeted organisations.

Presented below is the compilation of named victims found on ransomware group data leak sites up to this point.

Victim NameIndustry/SectorRansomware Family
Dental oneHealthcareALPHV (aka BlackCat)
Koo Wee Rup Secondary CollegeEducationALPHV (aka BlackCat)
Fire Rescue VictoriaGov – Emergency ServicesVice Society
Carinya Christian SchoolEducationRoyal
Guardian Analytics (Nice Actimize)Banking Services – Fraud detection servicesDaixin
HRL Technology GroupConstructionBianlian
CloudCallService Provider – Managed ITVice Society
URM GroupEnergy & UtilitiesLockbit 3.0
WealthwiseFinancial InstitutionLockbit 3.0
Cotter ParkerArchitectureLockbit 3.0
Blackswan HealthHealthcareALPHV (aka BlackCat)
WunanNon-profit – charityLockbit 3.0
RubrikService Provider – Cyber SecurityCl0p
ServiceStream AustraliaService Provider – Network servicesCl0p
Booth TransportLogistics & TransportLockbit 3.0
Crown ResortHospitalityCl0p
University of MelbourneEducationCl0p
Tasmanian Gov SiteGov SiteCl0p
NGS SuperInsuranceLorenz
Albany clinicHealthcareTrigona
Bang IT SolutionsConsultingPlay
DI JonesReal EstateAvoslocker
HWL EbsworthLegalALPHV (aka BlackCat)
Nova GroupEngineering ServicesPlay
Crown Princess MaryHealthcareMedusa
Loreto Mandeville HallEducationMedusa
Harcourts AcademyReal Estate8Base
Concept FastenersManufacturing8Base
Veal and PrasadFinancial Institution8Base
Just Us LawyersLegal8Base
Horseman SimLegal & conveyancersMalas Locker
Royal Workforce AgencyRecruitementNokoyawa
RecruitmentEngineering ServicesRagnarlocker
HaemokinisisHealthcare and TechnologyRhysida
Crosscity TunnelTransportationLockbit 3.0
Guest Group Pty LtdReal EstateLockbit 3.0
Air InternationalManufacturingLockbit 3.0
FIIGFinancial InstitutionALPHV (aka BlackCat)
Fortescue Metals Group LtdMiningCl0p
Academia 21EducationLockbit 3.0
Info SalonsTechnology8Base
Jasper PicturesArt GalleryStormous
Atherfield Medical & Skin Cancer ClinicHealthcareCyclops
WilcomSoftware TechnologyAkira
Perpetual GroupFinancial InstitutionAkira
European WindowsManufacturingMedusa
Smarter CapitalTechnologyALPHV (aka BlackCat)

The Australian ransomware threat landscape for organisations remains a severe and evolving concern. Ransomware attacks have increased in frequency and sophistication, posing significant risks to businesses and government institutions nationwide. This summary highlights critical aspects of the current threat landscape and provides insights into how organisations can better protect themselves against such attacks.

  1. Escalating Frequency of Attacks: Ransomware attacks in Australia have seen a notable surge over the past few years, with cybercriminals deploying various tactics to infiltrate organisational networks. These attacks are often financially motivated, as hackers seek to extort money by encrypting critical data and demanding ransoms for its release.
  2. Targeted Sectors: A wide range of industries in Australia is at risk, including healthcare, finance, education, government, and critical infrastructure sectors. Hackers frequently exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software, weak passwords, and inadequate cybersecurity practices to access sensitive information.
  3. Sophistication and Diversification: Cybercriminals are constantly refining their attack techniques, employing more advanced malware, including ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) models, and using tactics such as social engineering, spear-phishing, and supply chain attacks. These techniques make it increasingly challenging for organisations to defend against ransomware.
  4. Impact on Business Continuity: Ransomware attacks can severely disrupt business operations, leading to data loss, system downtime, reputational damage, and significant financial losses. Smaller organisations, in particular, may struggle to recover from such incidents without proper preventive measures and incident response plans.
  5. Notable Ransomware Families: Several notorious ransomware families have targeted Australian organisations, including but not limited to Lockbit 3.0, ALPHV (aka Blackcat) and Cl0p. These ransomware variants are frequently updated, making them more potent and difficult to detect.
  6. Compliance and Legal Concerns: Organisations operating in Australia face increased scrutiny regarding data protection and privacy regulations. Falling victim to a ransomware attack may result in regulatory fines, legal liabilities, and damage to customer trust.
  7. Cybersecurity Best Practices: Organisations must implement robust cybersecurity measures to mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks. These include regular data backups, keeping software and systems up to date, using multi-factor authentication, conducting security awareness training for employees, and employing advanced threat detection and prevention solutions.
  8. Incident Response and Contingency Planning: Organisations should develop and test incident response plans, outlining clear steps to be taken in the event of a ransomware attack. Having backups and a contingency plan in place can significantly reduce the impact of an attack and facilitate a faster recovery process.
  9. Collaborative Efforts: The Australian government and cybersecurity agencies are actively working to enhance cybersecurity practices and share threat intelligence with the private sector. Organisations are encouraged to participate in these collaborative efforts to stay informed and strengthen their defences.

In conclusion, the Australian ransomware threat landscape remains a significant concern for organisations. To safeguard against ransomware attacks, businesses must adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity, focusing on prevention, employee education, and robust incident response planning. By taking these steps, organisations can significantly reduce their vulnerability and better protect their critical data and operations from malicious actors.

Wishing you all a secure and productive week ahead.



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