A year in review: Australia’s cyber security landscape 2023

As Australia looks back on 2023, a key stand out will be the growth of cybercrime, and the subsequent financial and emotional impact on Australian citizens. Australia started 2023 in the wake of the Optus data breach and the Medibank hacking, and the attacks continued with the year set to record more security breaches than ever before.

Australia’s critical infrastructure has been under attack in unprecedented numbers with the ASD in its annual cyber threat report, revealing that in the last financial year the agency responded to 143 incidents at critical infrastructure entities such as ports, this figure up from 95 incidents in the previous year.

Australian cyber security provider, AUCloud, has summed up the top 5 impacts on the cyber industry in 2023 and what we can expect in 2024.

1. Cyber-attacks is now everyone’s problem

2023 was the year when cyber-attacks moved from being the problem of large corporations holding public data, to a problem for every member of the public.

COVID-19 and the shift to working from home opened cyber criminals up to the internet of things. More laptops, mobile devices, printers and other workplace tools – all of which are connected to the internet, has seen almost every citizen exposure to vulnerabilities. Compounding this is the ever-growing online shopping, now blurred by a plethora of fake consumer websites and brand fraud.

An increased use of mobile devices to conduct finances put every smart phone holder at risk – every year 230,000 Australians fall victim to scams, with 84,000 of these occurring through text messages.

2. There weren’t enough people to protect the data

2023 in Australia continued to be plagued by staff shortages and this was most prominent in the cyber-IT industry.

Projections show that IT Security employment is on track to double between 2021 and 2026.

The lack of staff meant large companies have been unable to employ the resources needed to protect their customers’ data in 2023 and they are frantically making plans to outsource large components in an as-a-service model in 2024.

3. Security breaches grew rapidly

In 2023 security breaches simply got smarter and Australia became a target. Australia remains one of the most cyber attacked countries in the world due partly to our significant economic position, strategic geopolitical position, and advanced technological infrastructure.

4. Scams in Australia grew because of the massive data breaches

Large data breaches have exposed large amounts of Australian personal information for scammers to exploit, using stolen data for targeted and convincing scams, such as phishing attacks or identity theft, with the goal of defrauding normal citizens for financial gain.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) impacts cyber crime on both sides of the fence

In 2023, the AI fueled ChatGPT platform became a popular hacking tool with it, amongst other things, being used to write spam and phishing emails – and not just in English, but in multiple languages to trap more people.

Whilst Australia was discovering ChatGPT, the technology industry was researching greater uses for AI – and so were the cyber security criminals. In 2023, we saw multiple generative AI tools launched by cyber criminals such as Worm-GPT and EVIL-GPT engineered to enable threat actors in automating personalized fake emails.

AI offers tools that help cyber criminals clean up language, opening new doors for hackers to break into networks through emails that trick recipients into sharing personal info.