Hacking – Give me 10 minutes to hack the Nasdaq

Pierluigi Paganini September 17, 2013

It is very easy to hack the Nasdaq according the security expert Kolochenko that reported numerous vulnerabilities in the official website of the exchange.

Just 10 minutes could be sufficient for an attacker to hack the Nasdaq Stock Market, this is the alert provided by Ilia Kolochenko, head of Swiss information security company High-Tech Bridge.  The security expert repeatedly warned Nasdaq.com on the risk related to a cyber attack against one of most important stock exchanges. The hackers could hit the financial world in various ways, targeting clients and trading platforms has revealed a few months ago by security firm Group-IB.  That hackers could steal sensitive data for victims as alerted Kolochenko, the expert highlighted that the Exchange has done nothing to preserve the security of its customers.

“A good hacker can get full access to Nasdaq.com in a couple of days with the ability to do almost whatever he wants, such as push an announcement that Facebook shares have dropped 90%, [which] could cause havoc on the stock exchange.” “It is quite frightening when you think about it. I discovered these vulnerabilities in just 10 minutes with a Firefox browser without any special tools or software.” “What is shocking is their attitude and ignorance of notifications, especially taking into consideration their recent technical failure,” said Kolochenko

The intruders could hack the Nasdaq website gaining its complete control, once compromised cyber criminals could serve a malware, steal user’s browser history and cookies and perform phishing attacks. The warning arrived in concomitance with the Nasdaq’s trading stop caused, according official sources, by a “technical glitch” that shut it down for three hours on 22th August.

According many computer experts the incident could hide a concerning truth, it could be caused by a politically motivated cyber attack, it is not a mystery that stock exchange is considered a critical infrastructure and for this reason privileged targets of state-sponsored attacks.  At about the same time as the Nasdaq’s technical problem, the Syrian Electronic Army hit The New York Times’ website.

The cyber security expert Kolochenko was able to inject some code into the website without being detected.

“This means anyone could inject arbitrary HTML code into Nasdaq.com to display a fake Web form demanding credit card numbers and other personal information or to inject malware to infect PC users. The only limit is the hacker’s imagination.”

Code injection is just a way to hack the Nasdaq, Kolochenko found another vulnerability would allow hackers to hijack a Nasdaq.com website visitors to malicious websites that serve malware designed to steal sensitive information.

The menace is also for the same employees of the stock exchange that could be easy victims of a spear phishing attack, Kolochenko sustains that another possibility to hack the Nasdaq is to send a unique link in a private message to Nasdaq technical support or administrators waiting for its click to steal confidential information from the victim’s browser.

The representatives of Stock Exchange refused the Kolochenko’s allegations for leak of security to protect official website:

“We take all information security matters seriously. We work with leading security vendors and have a trained and professional team that evaluates all credible threats across our digital assets,” said the Nasdaq spokesman.

Security of web services such as the stock exchanges must be approached with serious consideration

Despite it is not a mystery that with a Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) an attacker is able to inject malicious code in the page of a vulnerable website the number of successful attacks still increase. Vulnerable websites expose company owners and its clients to concrete risks to be hacked … the provocatory title I have chosen is “Give me 10 minutes to hack the Nasdaq” is far from fantasy!

With an XSS attack the hackers can “phish” website visitors stealing their data, exploiting a SQL injection flaw it is possible to access to the entire database of a company with serious consequences.

Last “ENISA Threat Landscape” report issued early 2013 identified and listed the top threats and their trends, and concluded that drive-by exploits have become the top web threat. Top 3 menaces according the ENISA report are:

To draw a picture of a current security landscape the document contemplates data relates 120 recent reports, released from 2011 and 2012, from the security industry, CERTs, standardization bodies and other independent parties.



Once again I decided to publish the conclusions the interesting Web Application Attack report published by Imperva that provides an overview of the principal cyber security events occurred during the last 12 months.

hack the Nasdaq Web Application Attack Report Retailer Incidents



The security of web application is an obligation, following a few recommendations for attack mitigation:

  • Deploy security solutions that prevent automated attacks that are able to differentiate between automated bots and human clients. Security procedures and solutions should be as automated as possible to mitigate an attack volume that is too overwhelming for humans to monitor.
  • Share information and threat intelligence about cyber attacks.
  • Detect and block attacks that target known vulnerabilities.
  • Acquire intelligence on malicious sources to blacklist principal attack sources.
  • Estimate countermeasures on the worst case scenario, not on the average case.


Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Hack the Nasdaq, cybercrime, security)

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