By Mike Murphy
New Zealand’s stock exchange halted trading for a fourth day in a row Friday due to multiple cyberattacks.
“We are currently experiencing connectivity issues which appear similar to those caused by severe DDoS attacks from offshore this week,” Wellington-based exchange operator NZX Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/206104831/delayed NZ:NZX +1.10% said in a statement. NZX’s website was down as well. DDoS, or distributed denial-of-service, attacks overwhelm a targeted server or network with traffic.
ZDNet.com reported a global criminal syndicate is behind the attacks, which are part of a global campaign to extort bitcoin from some of the world’s largest financial and e-commerce companies. PayPal /zigman2/quotes/208054269/composite PYPL +2.58% and its Venmo service have also been targeted, ZDNet said, along with MoneyGram /zigman2/quotes/208548401/composite MGI -9.73% , YesBank India, Worldpay and Braintree.
The hackers are reportedly the same as those identified by Akamai Technologies Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203072268/composite AKAM -0.28% in an alert earlier this week , who are sending ransom letters demanding bitcoin to companies in the U.S., U.K. and Asia-Pacific region. The hackers reportedly claim to be from the Armada Collective and Fancy Bear groups, but it is believed they are not actually affiliated with those notorious hacker organizations.
NZX is working with its internet service provider, as well as cybersecurity partners and New Zealand’s national security bureau, the New Zealand Herald reported .
The repeated interruptions in service have raised serious concerns about the exchange’s security, and raised fears that the cyberattacks could be the prelude to moves against larger global exchanges.
Professor Dave Parry of Auckland University of Technology’s department of computer science told New Zealand news service Newshub that it was “a very serious attack on critical infrastructure in New Zealand,” and “indicates a level of sophistication and determination which is relatively rare.”
Before trading was stopped, New Zealand’s NZX-50 index /zigman2/quotes/211587880/delayed NZ:NZ50GR +0.91% was closing in on its all-time record high of 12,073.34, set in February.
Separately, a DDoS-bitcoin extortion scheme at Tesla Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +6.43% Nevada gigafactory was apparently thwarted by the FBI earlier this month, and a Russian national arrested in the scheme.