SEC says it was hacked, possibly resulting in illegal profits

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman nominee Jay Clayton testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. The SEC says a cyber breach of a filin

Clayton's public statement said the SEC recognizes the importance of cybersecurity and uses an organizationwide program for threat detection, protection and prevention.

Clayton said that the SEC has experienced cybersecurity vulnerabilities before, including an incident in 2014 when the inspector general found that certain SEC laptops that may have contained nonpublic information could not be located, and found instances in which SEC employees transmitted nonpublic information through nonsecure personal email accounts. With the public and lawmakers still reeling from Equifax's breach, the SEC intrusion is nearly certain to trigger additional questions over whether the USA government can do more to protect data.

While the 2016 SEC breach was known by the agency, it was never disclosed to the public; the expanded impact of the incident was not uncovered until August, more than one year after the attack.

The SEC has had other issues with Edgar, including people posting phony takeover offers and other hoaxes on the system that have temporarily driven up companies' share prices. While the SEC has been aware of the breach since 2016, it wasn't until last month that the agency concluded that the cybercriminals involved may have used their bounty to make illicit trades.

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It also claims that there is no systemic risk from the hack and that it didn't jeopardize the SEC.

The software vulnerability was patched after discovery, according to Clayton. The statement said that it didn't believe any personally identifiable information or SEC operations were compromised and that an investigation was continuing.

The SEC has also been dealing with attempts to seed EDGAR with bad data to affect financial markets.

Separately, SEC said it is looking at cases of individuals "who we allege placed fake SEC filings on our EDGAR system in an effort to profit from the resulting market movements".

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The SEC did not discuss why a test system was connected to live SEC data and accessible to the public.

Terry Murray, president of San Antonio-based Prescriptive Data Solutions, said the breach is yet another sign of an organization waiting for a catalyst to make significant changes in its security practice.

The top securities regulator in the United States said Wednesday night that its computer system had been hacked past year, giving the attackers private information that could have been exploited for trading. "We must be vigilant".

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