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Ransomware attack warning to the legal industry

Ransomware group ALPHV (aka Blackcat) caused a major incident by compromising a national law firm in Australia, providing ample opportunity for UK legal organisations to learn from afar about how these situations can develop.

ALPHV, or BlackCat, are a ransomware group renowned for their sophistication and targeting of law firms.

Previously their attacks have impacted multiple UK legal industry organisations. But it's one of their more recent attacks that has become headline news, and something UK firms should be aware of.

In April, HWL Ebsworth, one of the largest law firms in Australia, were at the centre of a ransomware attack which resulted in the exfiltration and leaking of 1.45 terabytes of data (equating to millions of files).

Due to the nature of the industry, despite being private organisations, law firms will interact with the organisations, and state or national agencies.

This can result in the exchange of data which may be protected by security classifications and at risk of compromise after being shared.

This is the primary contributing factor as to why threat groups are targeting law firms, as this sensitive data promotes more worries for the victim when leveraged for payment.

Despite the threat of releasing such a significant amount of data with an almost inevitable impact on the clients and partner agencies of the organisation, HWL Ebsworth are refusing to meet ALPHV’s demands.

This, as expected, resulted in the leak of the data into the public domain via the ransomware group’s dark web leak site.

Although law firm data breaches are becoming more common, they are rarely reported upon in the mainstream media and as result, the impact is relatively controlled.

But the attack against HWL Ebsworth is now being reported globally, bringing the fears of impact to the forefront of media.

Although potentially devastating for those involved, it may provide opportunities for interested parties to observe and incorporate learning points into their own incident response and communication plans.



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