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NZ’s cyber security centre warns more attacks likely following stock market outages

The NZX has been attacked five days in a row by malicious cyber activity. The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has issued a warning to all New Zealand businesses to be prepared for cyber attacks, following almost a week of daily attacks on the New Zealand stock exchange (NZX).

The attacks have caused outages, sometimes for hours, of NZX’s public-facing website since Tuesday last week. Today it continued trading under a new arrangement that allows it to post information to alternative platforms. The attacks are part of worldwide malicious cyber activity and the Government will likely share information via Interpol and government-to-government links, including the intelligence alliance know as Five Eyes.

Creating millions of Bots

The type of attack is known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). The attacker infects large numbers, often thousands or even millions, of computers with a virus that allows the attacker to instruct the infected computer – known as a “bot” – to send thousands of requests for data to the target.

NZX said the attack had come “from offshore via its network service provider”. The second attack had halted trading for a large chunk of the working day – from 11:24 to 15:00 local time, the exchange said. But despite the interruption, the exchange was up at the close of business, near its all-time high.

New Zealand cyber-security organisation CertNZ issued an alert in November that emails were being sent to financial firms threatening DDoS attacks unless a ransom was paid. The emails claimed to be from well known Russian hacking group Fancy Bear. But CertNZ said at the time the threat had never been carried out, beyond a 30-minute attack as a scare tactic.

What is DDoS?