A digital bomb designed to damage Nasdaq’s computer system in 2010 was a server hack that took on the importance of a military strike, a Bloomberg Businessweek investigation found
The attack was initially identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and looked like malware in the system. But within a few months, the National Security Agency was involved and decided there was “significant danger,” Bloomberg said.
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“We’ve seen a nation-state gain access to at least one of our stock exchanges, I’ll put it that way, and it’s not crystal clear what their final objective is,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told Bloomberg, although he refused to discuss the situation in detail. “The bad news of that equation is, I’m not sure you will really know until that final trigger is pulled. And you never want to get to that.”
The investigation into the Nasdaq digital bomb led to a strong examination of the United State’s cyber-response abilities that involved multiple agencies and generated disagreement on the situation. In Bloomberg’s exclusive investigation, they spoke with numerous people all off-record.
“While the hack was successfully disrupted, it revealed how vulnerable financial exchanges — as well as banks, chemical refineries, water plants, and electric utilities — are to digital assault,” Bloomberg’s Michael Riley wrote. “One official who experienced the event firsthand says he thought the attack would change everything, that it would force the U.S. to get serious about preparing for a new era of conflict by computer. He was wrong.”
The NSA said it was familiar with the computer code pulled from the Nasdaq and attributed it to the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. It could steal data and possibly destroy the entire exchange, Bloomberg said.
CNNMoney said the Russian government calls the idea that it was responsible for the hack “pure nonsense.”
Those familiar with the U.S. investigation said the hacker was more likely to be an independent Russian named Aleksandr Kalinin, whom the FBI and Secret Service have said attacked Nasdaq computers in the past.
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