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WH says US not victim of cyber attack; public unconvinced after all United planes grounded, stock exchange closed

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Computer glitches that crippled trading on Wall Street, grounded United Airlines flights and temporarily blocked The Wall Street Journal‘s website caused major jitters on Wednesday that the snags were part of a coordinated cyber attack, despite White House and industry assurances that the failures were unrelated.

At United, the problem struck about 8: 30 a.m. Eastern time, with flights resuming after about an hour. A source with direct knowledge of the airline’s situation told CNN its employees have investigated the computer glitch and determined the company wasn’t attacked.

“This was not the work of hackers at all,” the source said. “There was no hacking whatsoever, and there is no evidence of any connection to what is happening at the NYSE.”

The stock exchange, where trading stopped about 11:30 a.m. and reopened after a four-hour shutdown,  also assured the public that hackers weren’t behind the problems.

United Airlines

“The issue we are experiencing is an internal technical issue and is not the result of a cyber breach,” NYSE tweeted. “We chose to suspend trading on NYSE to avoid problems arising from our technical issue.”

The Wall Street Journal, which lost its home page minutes after the stock exchange problem started, was back up by Wednesday afternoon,  with a bare-bones website and basic formatting. The company didn’t say what caused the problem, however some speculated that the NYSE shutdown attracted a flood of visitors to WSJ.com, overloading the site’s servers.

The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the glitches “were not the result of any nefarious actor,” and White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that President Obama had been briefed by the DHS.

NYSE
The floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday. Photo Credit: NYSE TV.

Coincidentally on Wednesday,  the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies and Lloyd’s of London released a report detailing that a cyber attack that took out part of the U.S. power grid would cost America trillions of dollars.

Despite the DHS statement and tweets from the NYSE itself declaring the malfunctions were not the result of a cyber attack, many in the Twitterverse remain skeptical, particularly because the hacktivist group Anonymous sent out a tweet Tuesday that said, “ Wonder if tomorrow is going to be bad for Wall Street…. we can only hope.”

Carmine Sabia

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