Hacking attacks designed to alter electronic data, rather than steal it, may grow more common as terrorists and criminals seek to undermine the integrity of financial markets in the future, the head of U.S. intelligence is warning lawmakers.
“We might also see more cyber operations that will change or manipulate electronic information in order to compromise its integrity,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in testimony prepared for a House intelligence committee hearing Thursday in Washington. “Decision making by senior government officials (civilian and military), corporate executives, investors or others will be impaired if they cannot trust the information they are receiving.”
Clapper’s warning is one of the starkest to date about a new and potentially debilitating form of hacking. U.S. authorities last month broke up an alleged insider trading ring that relied on hackers to steal corporate press announcements, which were then used to manipulate stocks by trading on the information before it became public.
Institutional checks and balances can help prevent the manipulation of data, Clapper said, citing the market monitoring and clearing functions in the U.S. financial sector.
The House committee is meeting as President Barack Obama’s administration is debating whether to impose sanctions on Chinese government officials and companies for hacking U.S. networks.
“Chinese cyber-espionage continues to target a broad spectrum of U.S. interests, ranging from national security information to sensitive economic data and U.S. intellectual property,” Clapper said.
Hacking attacks are increasing in frequency and sophistication, although the likelihood of a catastrophic attack is remote, according to Clapper.
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