HKEX websites were attacked on Thursday, says CEO

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd's websites suffered cyberattacks on Thursday, though they were unrelated to the afternoon's derivatives market trading halt, according to its chief executive officer.

Charles Li said that the company has seen distributed denial-of-service attacks against its websites many times this year. The derivatives problem was a software bug in a system provided by a vendor, he said, without giving more details.

HKEX's troubles on Thursday came around the time Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was discussing the city's unrest. The halt means that some traders are facing losses, said Louis Tse, Hong Kong-based managing director at VC Asset Management Ltd.

"After Lam announced the withdrawal of the extradition bill and the market went up tremendously, many people decided on short-selling because only one of the five demands was met," he said, referring to the back-and-forth between Lam and protesters. "It's such a coincidence that the derivatives market crashed."

Friday's derivatives trading opened as usual and without any issues, HKEX said in a statement. The malfunctions that caused the halt had been isolated, it said.

"We will continue to review all the procedures, make all effort to reduce the possibility of such a glitch happening again," Mr Li told reporters on Friday morning.

While trading halts due to software issues are almost unheard of in Hong Kong, exchanges around the world have suffered disruptions. Bourses in Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore have been suspended due to technical malfunctions in recent years.

The London Stock Exchange Group plc halted trading for about an hour and 40 minutes last month - its longest glitch in 8 years - because of what it said was a "technical software issue."

Mr Li said that cyberattacks are an issue many other companies face as well. HKEX said on Thursday that its and websites were "experiencing intermittent technical difficulties". VC Asset Management's Tse said hackers going after the bourse's websites was "very serious".

"I hope it's just a one-time issue, otherwise it will tarnish Hong Kong's reputation," he said.


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