Ransom payouts lure 'lowlife' hackers: REA

The head of the firm behind Australia's biggest property website says the company wouldn't pay a cyber attacker's ransom, warning the move only encourages "lowlife" hackers.

The comments from REA Group chief Owen Wilson come after it was revealed private health insurer Medibank recently refused to pay a ransom demand, leading to reams of sensitive customer data being leaked online.

Mr Wilson told REA's annual general meeting on Thursday the company carried out "practice runs" on how it would defend against an attack and last financial year it increased its spending on cyber security by 40 per cent.

The company, which is majority-owned by News Corp, owns property website realestate.com.au and mortgage brokers Mortgage Choice among other property-related businesses in Australia and overseas.

Mr Wilson said businesses shouldn't pay cyber criminals' ransom demands as doing so would lead to further attacks.

"It's our view that paying ransoms actually increases the propensity for people to try this," he said.

"If nobody pays a ransom, the business model breaks down and the lowlife needs to go somewhere else."

REA reported bumper sales and profits in 2022 on the back of a booming Australian property market, but with prices and listings going into reverse its pace of revenue growth has slowed.

In the past financial year, company revenue was up 26 per cent annually to $1.169 billion, while net profits increased 25 per cent to $407.5 million.

But REA's first-quarter results released on Wednesday showed year-on-year revenue growth slowed to 16 per cent, while earnings excluding associate entities were up 11 per cent.

The figures sent the company's share price plunging more than five per cent.

House prices in the country's two largest markets of Sydney and Melbourne are down 8.6 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively in the year ending October, according to CoreLogic.

Mr Wilson said it was likely there would be further price declines in the residential property market as interest rate rises continued.

But he remained bullish on the prospect of strong sales and listing numbers, which soared in Sydney and Melbourne late last year with the easing of COVID-19 lockdowns before tapering off.

"It is clear that demand will be supported by positive fundamentals, including record low unemployment, high household savings and increasing international migration," Mr Wilson said.

Listings increased in the two key markets in the three months ending 30 September after declines in the previous quarter.