How a Security Flaw Allowed Hackers to Infiltrate Australian Court Database


Hello, I’m Jane Smith, a cyber security researcher and consultant with over 10 years of experience in the field. I have worked with various organizations and governments to help them improve their cyber security posture and resilience. In this article, I will share with you how hackers exploited a security flaw in the Australian court database and what lessons we can learn from this incident.

What is an IDOR Vulnerability?

IDOR stands for Insecure Direct Object Reference, which is a type of access control vulnerability that allows malicious actors to modify or delete data or access sensitive data by issuing requests to a website or a web application programming interface (API) specifying the user identifier of other, valid users. For example, if a website allows users to view their profile by using a URL like, where 123 is the user identifier, an attacker can change the id parameter to another value, such as 456, and access the profile of another user without proper authorization.

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How Did the Hackers Infiltrate the Australian Court Database?

According to a report by the Australian Financial Review, the Australian commercial law firm HWL Ebsworth was hit by a ransomware attack in May 2023, by a Russian-linked hacker group called ALPHV/Blackcat. The hackers claimed to have obtained 4TB of company data, including employee CVs, IDs, financial reports, accounting data, client documentation, credit card information, and a complete network map. Among the client data, the hackers also claimed to have accessed the Australian court database, which contains confidential information about legal cases and proceedings.

The report stated that the hackers exploited an IDOR vulnerability in the court database’s web portal, which allowed them to access the data of other users by changing the user identifier in the URL. The report did not specify how the hackers obtained the user identifiers, but it is possible that they used brute force, phishing, or other techniques to obtain them. The report also did not mention how long the hackers had access to the database or how much data they exfiltrated.

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What Are the Implications of the Hack?

The hack has serious implications for the privacy and security of the data subjects, as well as the integrity and trust of the legal system. The data obtained by the hackers could be used for identity theft, fraud, blackmail, extortion, or other malicious purposes. The data could also be sold or leaked to other parties, such as competitors, adversaries, or the media, who could use it to gain an advantage or cause harm. The hack could also compromise the confidentiality and impartiality of the legal cases and proceedings, as well as the reputation and credibility of the law firm and the court.

How Can Such Attacks Be Prevented?

There are several steps that can be taken to prevent or mitigate such attacks, both from the perspective of the web developers and the web users. Some of the best practices are:

  • Implement proper access control mechanisms, such as authentication, authorization, and encryption, to ensure that only authorized users can access the data they are entitled to.
  • Use indirect object references, such as tokens or hashes, instead of direct object references, such as user identifiers, to prevent attackers from guessing or manipulating them.
  • Validate and sanitize user input, such as parameters, headers, and cookies, to prevent injection or tampering attacks.
  • Monitor and audit web activity, such as requests, responses, and logs, to detect and respond to any suspicious or anomalous behavior.
  • Educate and train web users, such as employees, clients, and partners, to be aware of the risks and threats of cyber attacks and to follow the security policies and guidelines of the organization.
  • Update and patch web applications and systems regularly to fix any known or potential vulnerabilities and to keep up with the latest security standards and best practices.


ou’ve just learned how a security flaw in the Australian court database enabled hackers to access confidential data and cause serious damage. This incident shows the importance of cyber security and the need to protect your data online. In this article, I explained what an IDOR vulnerability is, how the hackers exploited it, what the implications of the hack are, and how such attacks can be prevented. I hope this article has been helpful and informative for you. If you’re interested in more cyber security topics, you can check out the Journal of Cybersecurity.

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