Friday, 7 June 2013

The single tweet that crashed the stock market


On the morning of the 23rd of April, the Associated Press agency, a powerful media outlet in the US with over 2 million followers on twitter, tweeted a disturbing message to the world: “Breaking: Two explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured”.

Associated Press twitter hacked
Within minutes, the message got retweeted thousands of times, the New York stock exchange was in high alert and traders anticipated the impact of the news on the economy. Dow Jones Industrial Average, which collects the top US listed companies’ share prices, fell by 100 points and the stock market was in chaos.

Not too much time passed before the White House confirmed to the press that nothing had happened, and the market recovered.  It then quickly became clear that AP’s twitter account had been hacked. A group calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the hack. They are said to support the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, and have targeted several media outlets such as the BBC and the Guardian.

After some research by IT security professionals, they found that an “impressively disguised phishing email” sent to an AP journalist allowed the hackers to extract data and the password for the AP’s official Twitter.

A financial trader stated that after reading the tweet, he had the same feeling when hearing about the 11th September attacks, and he knew it will affect market a lot. He added: “When I realized it was a fake tweet I was outraged and ashamed that the market was able to be manipulated so easily.”

On top of seeing first-hand the affect an attack like this can have on the financial market, it’s scary to know how easy it is for hackers to steal information from a central pillar on the global economy’s information. All of the employees have since been briefed about cyber security and phishing attacks.

The attack brings up the question; is your government and media outlets prepared and ready for similar attacks? We recently mentioned that the UK government announced plans to allocate £650 million to cyber security as part of its four-year National Cyber Security Programme. But is it enough? Read morehere.

About the Author:
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.