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Hong Kong stock exchange hack attack highlights need for real-time security systems

Warwick Ashford

The hacking attack on a website of the Hong Kong stock exchange earlier this week that forced the bourse to stop trading in seven listed companies demonstrates the need for real-time vulnerability scanning, say IT security professionals.

The news portion of the bourse's website, which publishes companies' regulatory filings, was inaccessible at times beginning around noon in Hong Kong on the day of the attack, which was enough to force a suspension of trade in shares belonging to companies including HSBC and Cathay Pacific Airways.

The attack proves that a denial-of-service (DoS) attack can be as damaging as if hackers managed to infiltrate trading systems. If timed right, having the ability to turn off a market or prevent shares from being traded could work to a malicious investor's advantage.

"While in hacking situations like this there will never be a single point solution that could have mitigated such an attack, this case once again demonstrates the need for online services to deploy real-time vulnerability scanning," said Ron Gula, chief executive officer of Tenable Network Security.

Organisations need to assume that malicious code is going to infiltrate their network, he says, which means they need a system that will continuously monitor the entire organisation's network.

According to Gula, it is no longer good enough for IT security teams to run patches and scans of the network on a weekly basis.

"There must be systems in place to be able to continuously monitor the organisation's systems to immediately flag when there is a system compromise or potential vulnerability discovered from internal or external sources," he said.

Gula says that as the IT network management environment gets more complex and challenging, it will become increasingly important for system administrators to know what is happening at every moment to pick up the unexpected as soon as it happens.

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