NYSE, United Airlines Shutdowns Spark Paranoia - InformationWeek

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Government // Cybersecurity
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7/8/2015
01:58 PM
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NYSE, United Airlines Shutdowns Spark Paranoia

United Airlines and the New York Stock Exchange both experienced massive outages this morning. The causes are slowly coming to light.

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This morning, both United Airlines and the New York Stock Exchange each experienced "network connectivity issues" that appear to be due to unrelated technical issues in the networks of the two companies.

While the two events seem to be unrelated, the first thought on many minds was cybercrime or cyber-terrorism. The immediate leap to that conclusion leads to an understandable question: Are we too paranoid for our own good?

Jerry Irvine, CIO of Prescient Solutions and a member of the National Cybersecurity Task Force, said in a telephone interview that the paranoia is simply a byproduct of the times in which we live. And the fact that these two events seem relatively benign doesn't mean companies should let down their guard. Said Irvine, "There are probably thousands of hacks happening at any time," though he added, "... so without seeing some sort of coordinated reason, I would go with it as coincidences."

(Image: EdStock/iStockphoto)

(Image: EdStock/iStockphoto)

United Airlines was first to experience problems as the software responsible for reservations went offline, forcing the FAA to issue a ground stop at 8:26 a.m. EDT. The ground stop came because the unavailability of records meant that the airline couldn't check the TSA no-fly list for possible problem flyers. The ground stop was lifted for UA's regional carriers at 8:41 a.m., though it was around 9:45 a.m. EDT when the stop was finally lifted for all UA flights. The airline reported that more than 4,000 flights were affected, with the impact on travelers likely to extend through Thursday morning.

[ What could possibly go wrong? Read 7 Data Center Disasters You'll Never See Coming. ]

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) suspended trading at 11:51 a.m. EDT. The shutdown was not the first technical problem of the day for the exchange, which suffered issues with symbols and confirmations of some trades as early as 10:40 a.m. EDT. While the main stock exchange was shut down, trading on electronic exchanges was unaffected, and other major exchanges were reporting no issues. As of 1:00 p.m. EDT, trading was still suspended, with no indication from the exchange of when it might resume. While early reports on media outlets blamed the outage on "network connectivity issues," the New York Times has reported that the cause was a software upgrade prior to the opening of trading Wednesday morning. InformationWeek called the NYSE to confirm this report, but an Exchange spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny any cause.

InformationWeek will continue to follow this story and update information as more facts become available.

UPDATE -- 4:15 p.m. EDT

The NYSE resumed trading shortly before 4:00 p.m. EDT. The Exchange confirmed to media outlets that the outage was caused by a software update gone wrong.

United Airlines has reported that a router issue caused their outage, though the company has released no details on the nature of the router problem that brought their reservations and process automation systems to a standstill.

In addition to the NYSE and United, the Wall Street Journal experienced significant web site degradation beginning shortly after the NYSE outage, with many visitors receiving 504 (Gateway Timeout Error) messages while others were presented with a simplified version of the normal homepage. Other pages and sections of the site were unaffected, and staff from the journal reported that higher than normal traffic due to the NYSE news contributed to the problems.

InformationWeek will continue to follow this story and update information as more facts become available.

With additional reporting by Larry Loeb.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio
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PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
7/8/2015 | 10:20:14 PM
updates can be dangerous
I was wondering that if such updates where to occur in such a sensitive industry; wouldn't they tested first or made sure that such updates didn't have a negative impact.  I heard a reporter that this was not the first time, a couple of years ago the same thing happen and trading was stopped for a day.  I will be interest to hear what are their plans if this happens again, how can they provide confidence to their traders?   
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
7/9/2015 | 6:43:59 AM
Re: updates can be dangerous
Pedro,

The Rumours that I have heard on the Darknet is that these outages were caused by Chinese DDOS attacks simply because they wanted to take some spotlight away from their collapsing Stock-markets in the last week or so(down 50% in one week).

Is that rumour true?

I really don't know.

But if it is'nt and these outages were really a function of Software upgrades as they so claim then they made a very-very big mistake of scheduling the updates in the middle of the working week.

It made more sense(in the case of NYSE) to schedule it at a time when they know Traffic is usually very light(like Say December or the beggining of the Summer Holidays season in America).

In contrast for United-Offpeak time is probably a week or so after Spring Break till a week or so before Summer Holidays commence.

 

 
ClassC
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ClassC,
User Rank: Moderator
7/17/2015 | 12:04:35 PM
Re: updates can be dangerous
I do believe there are more to these occurences than mere coincidence.    Noone at the NYSE ( or United for that matter) wants to admit that for all of their high end equipment and engineers that - someone or something has invaded their network.

I guess we are supposed to believe elephants  are pink as well.....
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/28/2015 | 12:04:03 PM
Re: updates can be dangerous
ClassC,

I am really glad to see ;I am not the only person who shares that Scepticism(about true reasons behind the NYSE shutdown).

More often than not;what one hears in the grapevine tends to be true(especially in Security space);remember how often there were rumours about Backdoors and the fact that the Government is Spying on us?

As Edward Snowden proved so clearly those rumours are true.

I won't be surprised a bit if something similar happens here as well.

 
ClassC
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ClassC,
User Rank: Moderator
8/28/2015 | 1:05:34 PM
Re: updates can be dangerous
@Ashu001    Couldn't agree more - Even though I think Snowden is actually a coward, his point cannot be denied. He just had access to what many of us have suspected all along.

The NYSE can never admit that for all of their cisco routers - it too has been breeched.

A major conerstone of the World Economy simply cannot admit it too is vulnerable. Those systems have been designed to work 24/7 and when they don't it is not because some mouse chewed on some fiber or a server hung after an update.

So I am waiting for the next unexplained outage and what excuse the public will be given then.
Ashu001
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50%
Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/28/2015 | 2:42:34 PM
Re: updates can be dangerous
classC,

Yes unfortunately,as I am sure you also observed the NASDAQ/NYSE trading halts on Black Monday(this week) the Authorities(and especially Global Central Banks) have lost control over the whole Economic Narrative.

They seriously speaking have absolutely no clue what's happening where in the system because it has become just way too complex today.

I beg to disagree on Snowden.

In fact I think he's an absolute Hero for what he's done and also for the fact that his decision to escape the Totalitarian state that is America today.

Look at how all those Whistleblowers before him were hounded ;he decided he did'nt want to go through the same fate so chose to do things differently.

Mr Putin gets bonus points(IMHO) for keeping him safe in Russia today.

 
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