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Victoria’s courts are one of many that have experienced cyber attacks, which can cause delays and leaks | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware | #hacking | #aihp

A major hack on Victoria’s court systems was the first reported cyber attack on Australia’s justice system, but similar incidents overseas show criminals are increasingly targeting sensitive official information.

A suspected Russian ransomware hack led to the unauthorised access of video and audio recordings from multiple Victorian courts, including the state’s highest court, the ABC revealed this week.

Hackers have accessed recordings from Victoria’s Supreme Court, including the Supreme Court of Appeal, as well as the County, Magistrates’ and Coroners’ courts, and potentially one Children’s Court hearing.

While it is the first attack of its kind that has been reported publicly on home soil, dozens of hacks against court systems have taken place overseas, including in the US, Brazil, Chile and even at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The hackers are likely drawn to the courts due to the swathes of sensitive data, which they can try to extort for ransom payments, experts say.

Court Services Victoria (CSV) insists the illegal access in December was confined to video and audio recordings, while other court records like employee or financial data were not accessed.

County Court cases had been most severely affected in the ransomware attack, which staff discovered on December 21. (
ABC News: Danielle Bonica

CSV said it took “immediate action to isolate and disable the effected network” and said court operations and hearings in January would be proceeding.

CSV has not confirmed if it has received a demand for a ransom, how much money the hackers are asking, or who it believes is behind the attack, though one expert believes it is likely to be a “double extortion” Russian phishing attack.

‘Months, if not years’ to recover from attack, analyst says

Allan Liska is a Washington-based intelligence analyst and ransomware researcher with Recorded Future, a major US-based cybersecurity company.

He described the attack on Victoria’s courts as “pretty severe”.

“It will be likely months, if not years, to fully recover and to make changes to the system so that it doesn’t happen again,” Mr Liska said.

“So I do think there’s going to be a long-term impact from that.”

The County Court was hardest hit by the randsomware attack in late December.(
ABC News: Danielle Bonica

A ransomware attack involves an actor hacking into a network and encrypting files before demanding payment for their return.

A “double extortion” ransomware attack is where hackers “get in, encrypt files, and then also steal files,” Mr Liska said.

“Not only do they want you to pay to decrypt your files, but also to not have the stolen files published,” he said.

Government systems are particularly attractive targets to ransomware hackers because they hold valuable and sensitive data, which can be extorted for payments.

“They want to get the most sensitive data they can,” Mr Liska said.

“That’s why they go after hospitals, and just as patient data is very sensitive, court data is extremely sensitive.”

Also in December, hackers stole data from one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit hospital and aged care operators.

Meanwhile last March, a cyber attack on a third-party file transfer service led to student information held by the Tasmanian Department of Education being leaked online.

Security experts urge hack victims not to pay ransoms

Australia’s cyber safety watchdog, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), describes ransomware as the “most destructive cybercrime threat to Australians”.

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