A pair of “glitches” that occurred in the IT systems of the New York Stock Exchange and United Airlines Wednesday look an awful lot like a cyber attack, according to some experts and observers, though officially, thus far, the glitches are not being described in that manner.
As reported by Breitbart News, the United Airlines snafu Wednesday morning forced the company to ground or delay about 3,500 flights for as long as two hours. Not long after, a “technical glitch” forced the NYSE to halt all trading, with few details being provided.
CNN further reported that the Federal Aviation Administration imposed on United what is known as a “ground stop” at 8:26 a.m.; that prevented all United flights from taking off. The news network also reported that the airline’s ticket agents were forced to issue tickets by hand at a number of airports.
“The problem highlights how powerful and delicate these airline computer systems are, which is something to keep in mind as we consider the problem of hacker mischief and cyber-warfare, although there doesn’t seem to be any indication of deliberate sabotage in this case,” Breitbart News added.
And yet it is hard to imagine that the two incidents were unrelated, especially given that they were both computer-related “glitches.” And apparently others think so too; not so ironically, cyber security stocks soared in other markets.
Glitch doesn’t describe what happened
Some reports were downplaying the cyber/hacking angle. CNN reported:
Automation software is complex, sometimes involving millions of lines of computer code. But all it takes is a single error — even misplaced text — to grind it to a halt.
One Bloomberg News host even opined that recent IT personnel cutbacks at the NYSE might have been the reason for the glitch. “Do you think they maybe cut costs too much?” he asked a reporter.
But such “logic” flies in the face of reality, which is, if the NYSE is so complex and the IT department so understaffed, why haven’t there been more of these “glitches”? And what about the occurrence of two systems glitches just hours apart, one in the U.S. transportation sector and one in the financial sector – two areas of vital infrastructure?
Another oddity: As reported by Zero Hedge, whose own website (along with that of The Wall Street Journal) was affected Wednesday morning as well (see here), hackers from China seemed particularly interested in launching distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on “targets” in and around St. Louis at the time of this writing (monitor cyber attacks in real time here).
It was not immediately clear why the St. Louis region was of particular interest, but Breitbart News, in separate report, noted that a company which tracks cyber attacks in real time and displays them online, Norse, is located in St. Louis. In addition, the report noted, there are several Internet servers for major corporations based in and around the city as well.
Is it all related to Greek financial failure?
“But the attacks, rudimentary as they are, could easily bring down U.S. corporates [sic] and government infrastructure which have struggled to keep up with the millions of computers attached to Chinese botnets (networks of ‘zombie’ computers) which are linked to the attacks,” Breitbart News reported.
The report went on to suggest that the upsurge in DDOS attacks could be linked to Greece’s financial problems and, in particular, the country’s recent referendum in which Greek citizens voted resoundingly to abandon austerity measures imposed on the country by EU financial institutions in exchange for hundreds of millions of euros in bailout funds in 2012 – the “Archduke Franz Ferdinand” moment of our time:
When it became clear that Greece wasn’t going to abide by the wishes of the European and American creditors and markets, the doorway opened to Russia and China, who could well plough money into Greece and effectively make it their aircraft carrier, or Dubai, in Europe.
Of course, that is all just theory now. But what is clear is that “glitch” isn’t an adequate explanation for what occurred on Wednesday.