Move over Martha: Hackers might be the new insiders

Laura Wasson, Iowa Banking Law, Iowa Cybersecurity Law, Dickinson Law Firm, Des Moines Iowa

Posted on 09/21/2017 at 12:00 AM by Laura Wasson

This Wednesday, September 20, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced that EDGAR, its online filing system, was breached. The EDGAR system is used by both public and private companies to file various securities-related documents with the SEC. From time to time, these documents can contain highly-sensitive information about future events that could dramatically affect stock prices. Discover the document before the event and you can dominate the market. Enter: hackers.

The breach technically occurred last year, but it wasn’t until August 2017 that the SEC learned the hackers may have used the information to execute inside trades for illicit gain. This motive sets the breach apart from today’s typical breach, where hackers are after personally identifiable information that can be sold on the black market.

What can we learn from this? One takeaway is that the black market is still a capitalist market like any other. Its participants must ride the waves of supply and demand and seek new and innovative ways to profit from their products when revenue dries up. The black market is not immune from saturation, and with data breaches like Equifax, Yahoo, and Target flooding the dark web with personal information, hackers might be adapting.

Corporations and government entities must adapt with them.

How? One emerging solution might be blockchain technology. Blockchain technology was originally invented to drive the cryptocurrency bitcoin exchange. Now, its distributed ledger characteristics are showing appeal for other reasons. First, because blockchain is not a central database, it’s significantly harder to hack. Second, it’s permanent. Third, it acts as a virtual notary and records every time a user accesses the information on the ledger, providing ultimate transparency to all parties on the chain. Blockchain is reportedly years from being ready for wide-scale implementation, but this next-level hacking could prompt its arrival sooner than predicted.

The material in this blog is not intended, nor should it be construed or relied upon, as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney if specific legal information is needed. 

- Laura Wasson


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