The chief executive of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) has conceded that the trading venue was subject to a series of cyber attacks this week but has insisted that an outage which brought derivatives trading to a halt was related to a software bug and not a hacker.
Charles Li addressed reporters the day after traders complained they were unable to enter orders on the exchange's futures and derivatives trading system.
HKEx officials stated that "prolonged connectivity issues" led it to suspend the use of the system to "preserve an orderly market".
Trading resumed on Friday after the exchange fixed the bug that had originated in the software of a third party trading system and spread to HKEx's back-up system.
Li also told reporters that the exchange had suffered a denial of service (DDoS) attack on its open access website which had overwhlemed the network and affected its ability to display prices and publish filings.
The chief exectuive called for trust from traders and market participants. "We will continue to invest more to safeguard and improve” the information and technical infrastructure at the exchange, said Li. “We hope the public has the confidence in the robustness of our system.”
And while derivatives volumes quickly recovered upon the resumption of trading, cyber security experts seemed less than convinced by Li's explanation. Michael Gazeley, chief executive of cyber security firm Network Box told the Financial Times: “To say there’s a software problem, that doesn’t really take us even one foot forward in explaining what happened.That’s like saying my car isn’t moving because my car broke down.”
The exchange, which only became fully electronic in October 2017, last suffered a significant cyber attack in August 2011 whern a similar DDoS attack forced the suspension of trading on key stocks worth more than $191 billion in market value.
The incident led HKEx to announce a $250 million budget to bolster its cyber defences.