Cyber attack disrupts global property sales – but could it happen in Australia?

An increase in large-scale cyber attacks could cause some Aussie property sales to collapse.

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

An increase in large-scale cyber attacks could cause some Aussie property sales to collapse.

Homeowners in the UK have been left unable to complete agreed sales for more than a week after a cyber attack on law firm IT provider CTS caused chaos.

The system failure has caused property transactions for more than 200 British real estate agencies to grind to a halt, with its impacts already felt as far as the Australian market.

The ongoing cyber attack has left client conveyancing legal services in limbo – preventing transactions from being finalised domestically and overseas.

With the world’s property market more interconnected than ever, the standstill has had a domino effect by disrupting a long chain of sellers and buyers who rely on each other’s successful sales to complete their individual purchases.

Real estate hack – when – not if

Now, Australian-based conveyancing software provider triSearch has declared the cyber attack a warning to the Australian real estate industry to prepare for similar incidents occurring domestically.

“As the sophistication and scale of cyber-attacks increases, a prevention-only response is no longer enough,” triSearch CEO Chris Gibbs said.

“Businesses should assume a cyber security attack will happen, and by focusing on early detection and response planning, businesses can be more resilient to an attack.”

Mr Gibbs said property law firms would need to step up their data security measures and develop a contingency plan to be best placed if cyber attacks occur.

“The more prepared we are as a business for an attack, the quicker we can bounce back and protect the interests of conveyancers, lawyers, homeowners,” he said.

Sydney-based data security strategist and consultant Shameela Gonzalez agreed, stating it was more a case of when, not if, a cyber-attack is made on Australia’s conveyancing industry.

“As transactions involve property and family trust funds, the stakes are high,” she told The Australian Conveyancer publication.

“In our world, we talk about high-value targets. From a conveyancer point of view, one thing a criminal will consider is who the Australians are that are financially better off? What postcode do they live in? What are their mortgages?”

“That information becomes lucrative for cyber-criminals to go and exploit an individual or on-sell the information to other criminals.”

As of the publication, services had yet to be restored to CTS, with no timeline set for its resolution.

In a statement on their website, the conveyancer service provider admitted the outage resulted from a cyber attack.

“We are working closely with a leading global cyber forensics firm to help us with an urgent investigation into the incident and to assist us in service restoration,” they said.

“We continue to work around the clock with the assistance of third-party experts. Whilst we are confident that we will be able to restore services, we are unable to give a precise timeline for full restoration.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.