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Everything We Know So Far About the Cybersecurity Situation on Wall Street

The Secretary of Homeland Security says it's not a coordinated cyberattack—just one hell of a weird day.
July 8, 2015, 5:27pm

Unrelated photo via Flickr user Charles Hutchins

At 11:32 AM Eastern time on Wednesday, trading stopped at the New York Stock exchange. By 3:15 PM, it had resumed. The stoppage coincided with two other strange glitches or possible hacks: one earlier in the morning at United Airlines, and another at the online home of the Wall Street Journal shortly thereafter.

We're still finding out what happened, but here's what we know so far:

In the wee hours of the morning, would-be passengers on United Airlines flights started noticing that IT problems were halting the carrier's ticketing system. At first, the usual airline gremlins were blamed, and customers issued rote announcements of boycotts:

— Jeralyn Novak (@AgCommunicator)July 8, 2015

At around 8:26 AM, United grounded all flights and blamed a "network connectivity issue." Flights resumed about an hour later. Almost exactly three hours after the United grounding, trading stopped on Wall Street, with officials citing an unnamed glitch. Less than an hour after that, the Wall Street Journal's website went down.

So yeah, this was a bizarre morning.

Sometime during the Wednesday morning cyber-clusterfuck, President Obama was briefed, according to the Guardian. Members of the press were also briefed by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. He told America not to panic, and said, "The officials at the stock exchange are working feverishly, as you would expect."

A tweet from the "signal booster" account for the operations of Anonymous, the loose hacker collective, began to attract retweets late on Wednesday morning as the situation grew weirder.

Wonder if tomorrow is going to be bad for Wall Street.... we can only hope.

— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews)July 8, 2015

That tweet had gone up on Tuesday, suggesting that whoever runs the account might have known something fishy was about to happen. But the prospect of Anonymous mischief was promptly contradicted by the NYSE's own Twitter account.

(1 of 3) The issue we are experiencing is an internal technical issue and is not the result of a cyber breach.

— NYSE (@NYSE)July 8, 2015

All functions at the Wall Street Journal website were restored at around noon, according to the paper's own Twitter feed.

At 1PM, with trading still halted at the New York Stock Exchange, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson briefed the public on the situation. In his speech, he said, "The malfunctions at United and the NYSE were not the result of any nefarious actor."

Johnson added, "We know less about the Wall Street Journal at this point. But their system is back up again, as is United Airlines'."

The situation at New York Stock Exchange has been a major headache. 700,000 ongoing transactions had to be manually cancelled by employees before the system could be rebooted, according to the New York Times. Traders on the floor reportedly received no warning before the system was shut down.

Stock Exchange President Thomas Farley told CNBC that the system would be up and running again at around 2:45 or 3PM eastern because getting everything up and running again before the traditional closing bell at 4 was "critically important."

"It's not a good day," he said on the cable channel. "I don't feel good for our customers who are having to deal with the fallout."

During the chaos, the Nasdaq was still running, but stocks were trading down, with the index having dropped nearly 88 points at the time of publication. The S&P 500 showed a 33 point decline, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged over 250 points. The latest on the dire situation in Greece (a do-or-die ultimatum from Europe demanding that the Prime Minister settle a debt dispute by Sunday or else) can't be helping matters.

An unnamed trader told Reuters that the shutdown wasn't the only problem for traders Wednesday morning, and that, "It was a mess from the open." That person claims that crucial connectivity ports were reportedly failing to function, or were losing their connections, causing chaos well before the shutdown occurred.

Shortly after trading resumed, a different Anonymous Twitter account teased some afternoon plans:

FLOOD WALL STREET AT 5PM EDT. | — Anonymous (@AnonyInfo)July 8, 2015

Check back in to find out if anything interesting actually happens at 5PM. We'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: We checked out the scene around 5 PM, but not much was happening. If Anonymous was trying to flood Wall Street, it looks like their secret weapon was light rain.

Photo by Briana Sylvester

Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.