Thursday, 14 December, 2017

SEC admits data breach, suggests illicit trading was key

SEC says hack may have led to illegal Wall Street profits SEC Discloses Hackers Breached Its Filing System
Lori Graves | 22 September, 2017, 00:48

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton disclosed in a lengthy statement late Wednesday that a hack was detected past year.

The disclosures by the SEC raise concerns about the security of the agency's Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) project, which is "intended to provide SROs [self-regulatory organisations] and the Commission access to comprehensive data that will facilitate the efficient tracking of trading activity across U.S. equity and options markets".

News of the incident comes after credit reporting agency Equifax earlier this month disclosed a breach that exposed the personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers. The statement provides an overview of the Commission's collection and use of data and discusses key cyber risks faced by the agency, including a 2016 intrusion of the Commission's EDGAR test filing system.

The system that was breached, known as EDGAR, is a popular way for investors to access the detailed financial reports companies that sell stock to the public must periodically release.

The agency detected the breach a year ago, but didn't learn until last month that it could have been used for improper trading. It said the security vulnerability used in the hack had been patched shortly after it was discovered. In a statement, Republican SEC Commissioner Mike Piwowar, who for part of 2017 also served as Acting Chairman, said he was "recently informed for the first time that an intrusion occurred in 2016". 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.

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The SEC 's new director, Walter J. Clayton, has said the agency would work to improve its cybersecurity protections.

Clayton revealed in a statement last night that hackers exploited a software vulnerability in the regulator's EDGAR filing system.

The SEC has experienced other security risks in recent years. The SEC said that the breach did not result in unauthorized access to personally identifiable information (PII), jeopardize the operations of the agency, or result in systemic risk.

Clayton's statement also mentioned that a 2014 internal review was unable to locate some agency laptops that may have contained nonpublic information.

"The chairman obviously recognises the irony of the SEC potentially serving as the unwitting tipper in an insider trading scheme", said John Reed Stark, president of a cyber consulting firm and a former SEC staff member. Infiltrating the SEC's system to review announcements before they are released publicly would serve as a virtual treasure trove for a hacker seeking to make easy money. "We must be vigilant".

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