BUSINESS

Did Anonymous Take Down The NYSE? Prescient Tweet Sets Speculation Flying

07/08/2015 03:51 EDT | Updated 07/08/2015 08:59 EDT

Speculation is flying online that the hacker group Anonymous may have been responsible for the shutdown of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

U.S. government officials and the NYSE Group, which runs the stock exchange, say the technical glitch that shut down the NYSE at 11:32 a.m. ET on Wednesday was not the result of a hack attack. Trading resumed after about three hours.

But a tweet late the day before from the hacker collective, wondering “if tomorrow is going to be bad for Wall Street,” has spurred many to speculate this could have been one of Anonymous’ most high-profile cyberattacks yet.

The group was coy about the issue Wednesday, tweeting a vague reference to the NYSE trading halt that implied they had a hand in it. And as the day wore on with trading halted, Anonymous called for a spontaneous protest at the stock exchange building on Wall Street.

But officials in New York and the NYSE Group say the glitch wasn’t the result of a cyber-attack, nor was it related to another technical glitch that grounded United Airlines jets briefly on Wednesday morning.

Top U.S. law enforcement and security officials said they didn't see a link between the outages at the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday and the temporary grounding of United Continental flights and the temporary malfunction of the Wall Street Journal's website.

"We do not see any indication of a cyber breach or a cyber attack,'' FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence committee.

"I think the Wall Street Journal [going offline Wednesday morning] is connected to people flooding their website in response to the New York Stock Exchange to find out what's going on. In my business, you don't love coincidences, but it does appear that there is NOT a cyber intrusion involved.''

Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he had spoken to the CEO of United, Jeff Smisek.

"It appears, from what we know at this stage, that the malfunctions at United and the stock exchange were not the result of any nefarious actor. We know less about The Wall Street Journal at this point, except that their system is back up again, as is the United Airline system.''

But with the NYSE trading halt, the United Airlines glitch and the Chinese stock market plummeting 6 per cent in one day, one could be forgiven for seeing conspiracies and calamities around the corner.

In an article listing all that had gone wrong Wednesday, Gawker argued that the time had come to panic.

Panic never really arrived. Trading of NYSE-listed shares continued on other exchanges, such as the NASDAQ, and while NYSE stocks were down for the day, that had more to do with the nasty rout in Chinese stocks than with panic over the trading halt.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down 1.47 per cent, at 17,515.42.

With files from the Associated Press.