Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd., the world’s biggest bourse operator by market value, faced a second day of attacks from hackers that slowed down its website for company news and disclosure.
The bourse was targeted by a “sustained and systematic” denial of service attack yesterday and today, said Chief Executive Officer Charles Li at a press briefing. While the exchange doesn’t know who the hackers are, trading systems weren’t affected and the defense that’s in place is working well, he said.
Hong Kong Exchanges said it will introduce alternative ways of distributing information and move away from a centralized disclosure method that leaves the website and its backup system vulnerable. The bourse plans to place notices in newspapers telling people about scheduled corporate announcements, Li said.
“What happened yesterday tells us that while that system served a great, traditional purpose of protecting retail investors, that system brings risk to it because its central,” said Li. “The changes will give us a greater flexibility of not having to suspend in a situation similar to yesterday.”
The exchange suspended trading of companies that published price-sensitive information, including on earnings and acquisitions, after 12 p.m. to ensure investors had equal access to statements, Li said yesterday. Seven stocks including HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (293) were halted.
The exchange’s method of releasing news on a central website created fair and equal distribution of information, benefiting smaller investors, according to Li. Higher-than- normal traffic on its website led to the breakdown yesterday and the bourse will review its technology infrastructure, said Hong Kong Exchanges Chairman Ronald Arculli in a Bloomberg Television interview prior to today’s press conference.
The hacking, from remote-controlled computers in different parts of the world, was sophisticated and came at a high frequency, taking time to filter and analyze, said Chief Technology Officer Bill Chow. Previous attempts had used a common technique and were easy to block, he said.
The website was disrupted today as companies including Swire Pacific Ltd., Li & Fung Ltd. and Wing Hang Bank Ltd. reported earnings.
The bourse joins companies from Sony Corp. to Citigroup Inc. and Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. that have been targeted by hackers. Shares of Hong Kong Exchanges dropped 3.3 percent to HK$136.5, more than three times the decline in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
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