Ethical "white hat" hackers, intentionally looking to expose the cyber vulnerabilities of U.S. equity markets, were able to directly impact market performance in a test last month--forcing a mock market close.
Details of the exercise, dubbed Quantum Dawn 2, were unveiled in a new report earlier this week and highlight the steps the financial industry has taken to tackle ongoing digital threats.
More importantly, they underscore the work that still needs to be done.
“You don’t know what you don’t know until you do exercises like this,” said Cedric Leighton, a former U.S. intelligence officer with the National Security Agency (NSA).
More than 50 entities and 500 people in the financial services sector participated in the wide-scale mock cyber attack hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) on July 18. Ethical hackers were told to give everything they had to try and cripple the U.S. stock market.
The six-hour exercise, which simulated multiple trading days, was designed to be realistic and intense, underscoring the growing sophistication of malicious hackers in an effort to improve the industry's coordinated response in the event of a systemic attack.
“Quantum Dawn 2 demonstrated the industry’s resiliency when faced with serious cyber attacks that aimed to steal money, crash systems and disrupt equity market trading,” SIFMA CEO Judd Gregg said in a statement.
While the industry has made strides on this front, the test showed how much work still lies ahead in protecting critical U.S. assets, including the highly liquid equity markets.
“Complacency is not an option in the fight against cyber crime,” said Gregg, a former senator.