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Hong Kong stock exchange website hacked

Honk Kong police have arrested a 29-year old man following a cyber attack on the city’s stock exchange website. The attack, the second in two days, halted the trading of shares in seven different companies.

According to spokesperson for the police, five personal computers and two mobile phones were among the items seized when the man was arrested.

“He is being investigated under the offence of access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent,” the spokesman said, adding that the man was being held for questioning.

The firms hit by the “malicious” attack, which caused them to stop trading for half a day, included banking giant HSBC and airline Cathay Pacific.

The website of the Hong Kong bourse, the world’s most valuable exchange operator, displays listed companies’ regulatory filings. The bourse said it had to suspend the trading to ensure investors had equal access to the filings.

The exchange had said its other systems were not affected and trading in its securities and derivatives markets were operating normally.

The hacking was detected in the wake of HSBC’s announcement that it had sold its United States credit card and retail services business as part of an overhaul to streamline its operations, while Cathay reported its 2011 half-year earning results.

A number of global stock exchanges have been the victims of malicious attacks in recent months.

The Zimbabwean Stock Exchange’s website was attacked earlier this month. The attack, which occurred at the level of the site’s architecture, saw it being shut down, with all traffic being redirected to the hosting company’s website.

The London Stock Exchange (LSE), meanwhile, is believed to have been hacked in August 2010 while it was switching over to a Linux- based trading system. The hack is believed to have caused the shares of a number of large companies to plummet drastically, halting trading for the rest of the day.

It is the US exchanges, however, which may face the greatest danger from hackers. Unlike the LSE, stocks on the US market are traded online. In February the New York-based Nasdaq exchange’s website was found to have been maliciously hacked.

The Nasdaq attack focussed specifically on a service that allow leaders of companies, including board members, securely share confidential documents.

At the time, police investigators believed that the hackers may have been trying to access inside information not usually available to the public. Such information would have illegally given them an edge on trading. –AFP with additional reporting by Staff Reporter

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