Hackers took down a website belonging to the Hong Kong stock Exchange, prompting Asia’s third-largest securities exchange to suspend trading in the shares of London-based HSBC and six other companies.
“Our current assessment is that this is the result of a malicious attack by outside hacking,” HKEx Chief Executive Charles Li, said, according to The Financial Times. Li added it was unclear who the hackers were or what they hoped to gain from their actions.
“We’re digging into that particular question right now,” he said.
The attack crashed a website that locally listed companies used to announce price sensitive news, the FT reported. HKEx responded by suspending trading of seven companies that were scheduled to make announcements during the lunch break. Among them was HSBC, which on Wednesday confirmed the sale of its US credit card business and retail services unit to Capital One Financial. Trading was also suspended for stocks of China Power International, Cathay Pacific, and HKEx itself.
HKEx is at least the second major exchange to be targeted by hackers this year. In February, Nasdaq admitted attackers planted malware on one of its portals. Nasdaq was quick to say that none of its trading systems were affected and no customer information had been accessed. HKEx officials gave almost identical assurances on Wednesday.
After the HKEx website came down, officials instructed market participants to use an older bulletin board to obtain announcements being released by listed companies. If the website isn’t restored by market opening on Thursday, the stock exchange plans to rely on the legacy system again, but has no plans to suspend trading of any shares.