Even the thought of a cyber attack on Wall Street should be enough to send shivers through the financial community. Yet the possibility of such an attack is real, has already happened, and may be ongoing. The details are still emerging, but it appears that Wall Street dodged a serious cyber problem four years ago when hackers, believed to be Russians, breached the cyber security of NASDAQ and uploaded a ‘digital bomb’ that luckily failed to go off. Jose Pagliery, writing for CNN Money, reports that “Russian hackers managed to slip a “digital bomb” into the NASDAQ – one with the potential to sabotage the stock market’s computers and wreak havoc on the U.S. economy”. Reporting on the October 2011 attack, Michael Riley writes that “The October alert prompted the involvement of the National Security Agency, and just into 2011, the NSA concluded there was a significant danger.”
The significance of the danger, until now, had gone largely unreported. At the time, it was mentioned that the breach had occurred, no damage was done, and intruders had just been conducting a reconnaissance. What went unreported was that the hackers had uploaded a ‘digital bomb’ that, had it gone off, could have temporarily shut down or at least disrupted trading. The incident is still under investigation by the FBI, but fingers seem to be pointing at a Russian hacker from St. Petersburg by the name of Aleksandr Kalinin. Reports indicate that he was responsible for numerous attacks on Wall Street prior to the October 2011 incident.
The news of this cyber attack should sound alarms in IT sectors across the nation as a warning that our vital financial institutions are at risk. Coupled with recent attacks on our energy sector by ‘Energetic Bear,’ which is suspected to have Russian backing, and ongoing probes by ‘Deep Panda,’ suspected to be sponsored by China, the digital infrastructure of our nation is indeed at risk. Every conceivable effort needs to be taken to safeguard our networks before another bomb is tossed at us. The prevention costs may be high, but the costs will be a lot higher once the bomb has gone off.