Hackers: Wall Street Is An Easy Target

This weekend the grand finale of the annual Black Hat hackers convention is being rolled out in Las Vegas. On the agenda is a lecture on how easy it would be to hack the high frequency trading operations on Wall Street.

“Easy peasy.”

James Arlene

An annual hacker convention, known as Black Hat, is now in full swing in Las Vegas. Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports that one researcher plans to give a speach today, outlining how easy it would be to hack high frequency trading operations on Wall Street.

Every year, thousands of hackers, security professionals, and researchers descend on the desert mecca, to show off their latest exploits.

Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports that one researcher plans to give a speech this weekend, outlining how easy it would be to hack high frequency trading operations on Wall Street.

High frequency traders buy stocks at a lower price in one market and sell them a split second later, for a fraction of a penny more, in another.

The speed that we are talking about is insanely fast.

“You start thinking about fast things in the world, and you think about things like blinking your eyes. But these trades are ten times faster than that,” says James Arlen at Push the Stack Consulting.

In fact, it is a lot faster than that.

It takes barely a millisecond to execute a trade between New York and Chicago.

Now blink your eye:

That was about 400 milliseconds….

Computers automatically makes all the HFT transactions, based on their complex and rapidly developed algorithms.

Micro- and milliseconds are the difference between making a profit and getting hosed.

Over the last few years traders have put their servers in the same secret building as the New York Stock Exchange computers, and they’ve invested big time in building the fastest computers possible.

But that also means they have stripped their trading software and hardware down to the bare bones.

If these computers were cars there would be no seat belts, no airbags, no roll bars.

And the consequence is minimal security.

In other words; hacking made easy.

“Easy peasy,” Arlen comments.

James Arlen is also convinced that someone who gains access to these trading networks is going to try.

And so is this blogger…

Here’s the full radio interview with James Arlen:

Listen to the Story.

Doing Good – Being Bad?

Las Vegas is no stranger to shady characters, but there’s a plethora in town this weekend. So shady, in fact, they call themselves “Black Hats”.

It’s a convention of hackers and cybersecurity officials and researchers who claims they are trying to do good by being bad.

Here’s a little interesting piece from Marketplace’s Steve Henn who is on an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas for the conference:

“It’s kind of an interesting scene out here. You know, I was registering for this conference, and the guy behind the press desk was this bearded, tattooed dude, and I asked him if there was a wireless connection I could hook up to. And he just looked at me like I was this lost, pathetic soul, and said, “Man, don’t use the wireless.” And I was thinking, why not? So I asked, and he said, “You’re at a hacker convention.””

No, Oprah, No!

According to Marketplace, there are a lot of people at the hackers party  who are raising concerns about how interconnective many different devices are.

Don Bailey at iSEC Partners hacked into one of these devices called the Zoombak.

Here he is what he told the participants at the Black Hat convention:

“This is literally just a small consumer tracking device. Nobody knew who the heck this thing was – before Oprah went on and said, ‘Hey, you know what’s really cool? You can track your kids and make sure they’re safe. To do that, use this little small device that you can throw in their backpack and now they’re super safe, and you track them online with a web 2.0 interface. Thumbs up!’ I heard that and thought, ‘Oh dear God, no. Please Oprah no, no Oprah no!'”

So, Don Baily targeted this device. He got on the network, looked around, and was able to identify these things, and tracked them as they moved around, like you would track your kids.

Then he realized he could spoof them – send fake information about where a device was back to the Zoombak website.

Now, that is, if you’re a parent, really terrifying.

Thanks a lot Oprah!

Follow the Black Hats here.

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Filed under Technology

5 responses to “Hackers: Wall Street Is An Easy Target

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  3. nicolas

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