New Zealand’s stock market exchange came to an abrupt halt after being hit by cyberattacks multiple times over a week, blocking the access to its website and resulting in a major power outage caused due to a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack from overseas, state-backed adversaries.
The unknown attackers put to work a group of computers and bombarded the NZX website with requests to connect by commanding these computers, which resulted in overloading the exchange’s servers and shutting down its website.
The systems harnessed to instigate the attack probably belonged to innocent businesses that would have been exploited by the malware earlier. The owners of these compromised computers have most likely stayed oblivious to the fact that they have been hijacked to facilitate a cyberattack.
On Wednesday, the Wellington-based NZX exchange issued a statement wherein they explained how the Tuesday attack affected their websites and the market announcement platform. Blaming the attack on overseas adversaries, the NZX said that it had “experienced a volumetric DDoS attack from offshore via its network service provider, which impacted NZX network connectivity”.
“A DDOS attack aims to disrupt service by saturating a network with significant volumes of internet traffic. The attack was able to be mitigated and connectivity has now been restored for NZX,” the exchange further said.
While commenting on the matter, Dr. Rizwan Asghar, from the school of computer science at Auckland University told that it was difficult to trace the source of such a cyberattack as the threat actors exhibited a tendency to hide their IP addresses.
To combat the attacks, New Zealand’s spy agency, The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was sought by the NZX; by Friday GCSB constituted a group to investigate the matter which concluded that the motivation of the DDoS attack seems to be financial rather than political as claimed by few.
The findings of the investigation denied the involvement of state-backed agents in the attacks by stating that, “The nature of this tends to be a criminal activity rather than state-backed. You can’t rule it out but it’s more likely than not to be criminal activity.”