A top Senate Democrat on Thursday said the private and public sector needs to boost its cybersecurity after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed that hackers might have profited off of insider information stolen from the agency's disclosure filing system.
SEC chairman Jay Clayton revealed the hack of its Edgar database in a statement on September 20. Federal prosecutors alleged that 32 traders and hackers reaped more than $100 million in illegal proceeds in a scheme so brazen that the traders would send shopping lists of corporate news releases for sneak-peeking purposes to the hackers in order to place trades. The SEC provided little information, so it's still unknown which companies may have been affected or if hackers made a profit.
Clayton said that the SEC has experienced cybersecurity vulnerabilities before, including an incident in 2014 when the inspector general found that certain SEC laptops that may have contained nonpublic information could not be located, and found instances in which SEC employees transmitted nonpublic information through nonsecure personal email accounts.
Clayton said that the intrusion "may have provided the basis for illicit gain through trading".
Hackers may have used information stolen from the United States financial regulator to make "illicit gain" through insider trading, the body's chairman admitted.
Clayton did not delve into details about what information was illicitly obtained, but said the investigation is ongoing and the SEC is "coordinating with appropriate authorities".
Such attacks undermine confidence in financial markets and can create risks for investors and consumers, the SEC said.
It says that the system has been patched to remove this software vulnerability. The SEC did not specify companies whose information may have been exposed, adding the intrusion did not expose any personally identifiable information or otherwise pose "systemic" risk.
The SEC files financial market disclosure documents through its EDGAR system, which processes more than 1.7 million electronic filings in any given year. "We must be vigilant". It's meant to ensure that all parties have access to the same information at the same time to minimize the ability of some to take advantage of the release of advance financial information.
Although the problem was nearly immediately patched in 2016, it's noteworthy that the regulator only became aware that the glitch could have provided the basis for "illicit gains through trading" last month.
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