The Worst Cyberattacks of 2023 (so far)


Why you should be concerned

The threat of a cyberattack is a threat that has only risen as the modern world has become more technologically advanced. With new attacks becoming more intelligent and powerful, the capabilities of attackers have risen tenfold.

Because of these advancements, a range of attacks has led to catastrophe for many businesses throughout 2023 — lots of organisations throughout the United Kingdom have been hit by crippling cyberattacks, many of which have caused prolific levels of damage.

In this article, we’re going to go over the details of what happened in the worst cyberattacks of the year, so far. 

UK Schools Ransomware Attacks Demanding £15M

In January 2023, reports of rampant ransomware attacks hitting schools all over the UK were shared by multiple news publications.

These ransomware attacks were committed by a group known as ‘Vice Society’ — a hacking organisation that had already attacked the Los Angeles Unified School District in Autumn 2022 — who afterwards turned their attention to schools throughout the United Kingdom. 

A total of fourteen schools throughout the UK were hit throughout the latter half of 2022, and the data breached was important information such as student information, passports, contracts, teaching materials, and other important and sensitive information. The information was then leaked on the dark web, on a website hosted by Vice Society.

These attacks on educational institutions were only possible due to the severe lack of attention given to IT by these educational institutions. Ross Brewer, chief revenue officer of cyber-security company SimSpace, has said that “[Educational institutions] are typically under-resourced in the IT function and are easy prey for the hackers that have no heart and are purely motivated by greed.”

While unclear how exactly the ransomware attacks took place, the U.S Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have stated that the Vice Society uses the Hello Kitty/Five Hands and Zeppelin ransomware toolkits — both of which use a mix of extortion attacks and DDOS attacks to attack an organisation.

Royal Mail Ransomware Attack Resulting in Weeks of Downtime

The United Kingdom’s national mail service, Royal Mail, was hit with a ransomware attack in January 2023 — crippling the organisation and forcing it to rely on its physical systems throughout early 2023.

The attack — launched by the Russian hacking gang LockBit — was a ransomware attack which both took down the systems of Royal Mail while also breaching data from its systems — threatening to leak the data if the ransom wasn’t paid.

Royal Mail had a swift response — instantly informing the Information Commissioner’s Office and the UK National Cyber Security Centre as well as publishing a statement as early as possible. 

However, the main problem for their organisation was the total loss of infrastructure — which led to delays and a massive amount of disruption which was only worsened due to the post-Christmas delays. With this, the company was practically brought to a standstill for weeks.

This is why it’s vital to ensure that your company has a backup system in the event of a cyber incident — the damage caused to Royal Mail’s reputation over this period was irreparable and caused millions in losses.

Twitter Data Breach of 200M Users

Social media platform Twitter had a large data breach in 2023 — with over 200M users worth of data being leaked. 

While the details of the leak specifically are murky, Alon Gal — the owner of Israeli cybersecurity firm Hudson Rock — has viewed the leaked data — which were posted into an online hacking forum — and has stated that it is ‘one of the most significant leaks [they’ve] ever seen’. 

With the details being so unclear, it’s hard to tell how such a large breach happened. There are a few indications — such as a bug within the site’s  API — but it’s hard to say exactly how the breach took place.

Lagan Specialist Contracting Group Double Extortion Ransomware Attack

The Lagan Specialist Contracting Group — a northern-Irish construction company — was hit by a cyberattack by those behind the Royal Mail ransomware attack (LockBit) in February 2023. 

Similar to the Royal Mail attack, the Lagan attack was a double extortion attack — meaning that the attackers both denied service to and breached data from the servers of the victim.

LockBit has also attacked other organisations across the United Kingdom and Ireland — many of which have had their data leaked on the dark web due to not paying the ransom requested.

JD Sports Data Breach of 10M Users

In January 2023, UK fashion retailer JD was hit by a cyberattack on all of its brands — of which there are JD, Size?, Millets, Blacks, Scotts and Millets Sport. 

The company has said that the attack was ‘limited’ and that they’re confident that payment data and account passwords were not accessed. However, names and billing addresses, phone numbers, and order details of ‘approximately 10 million unique customers’ were breached.

While the source of the attack is unclear, this is an attack that — instead of trying to extort the brand — instead simply copied and leaked data to the dark web. With this, there is no indication of the attacker or how the attack took place.

SD Worx Cyberattacks Shuts Down All UK and Ireland Services

The United Kingdom and Ireland division of 1HR and Payroll giant SD Worx was hit by a massive cyberattack in April 2023, leaving millions of employees for over 82,000 companies unable to receive their payroll and wage during the outage that followed.

The company stated that they had detected malicious activity in their data centre and so they shut down all of their systems to mitigate any further damage. This led to weeks of downtime of their services — which affected companies across the United Kingdom.

Not much is known about the malicious activity that caused SD Worx to shut down its services in the UK and Ireland, but the attack was probably a data breach attack that was there to scrape and leak data from their data centre.

How to Protect Your Business

Many companies have been the victims of crippling cyberattacks in 2023. As the attacks become smarter and more complex, it’s easy to see how the rampancy of cybersecurity breaches and attacks has become more notorious as technology has advanced.

If you’re looking to implement new cybersecurity solutions into your organisation, get in touch with us today. Our expert team will be able to help you protect your business and ensure that all the proper security measures are in place — as well as measures to get your organisation back on track after a catastrophe.

Get in touch with us today and see how we can help you.

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