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Encryption on Wall Street

30th of October, 2015

A fascinating story out of the Business Insider illustrates the financial fallout that can stem from a lack of encryption. According to this article, hackers broke into the Dow Jones’ servers to steal press releases and company earning information that they could sell internally to traders for a massive profit. Specifically, the hackers targeted the news operations of the Dow Jones, which most notably includes the Wall Street Journal. The video below from Bloomberg Business explores the story further.

As a standalone case, we can claim that a hack on an enterprise as large and robust as the Dow Jones is an anomaly. Unfortunately, as we saw a few months earlier and discussed in Bloomberg’s video, this is a problem that has happened before and happened for a long period of time. In this story from August, a Ukrainian hacking ring was accused of attaining 100 million dollars from stolen news that was released and then used for investments.


Encryption the solution?


While these stories provide sensational news for writers, we do not presently know whether or not encryption codes were used to protect the data stored by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, owner of the Dow Jones. However, what we can be confident of, and what many other privacy advocates are making the call for, is that the better the encryption used the less likely these breaches of security become.


To start with a proper understanding of encryption, check out our previous article, What is Encryption? In this article you will discover, if you didn’t already know, that encryption today is not safe because it’sperfectly unbreakable in principle; rather, encryption today is considered safe because, with our present internet technology, the length of time it would take to decrypt the information would be so long that we can claim it cannot practically be broken. By this logic, storing sensitive files in an encrypted format with strong encryption would prevent hackers from gaining unwanted access to important stock trading information insofar as they don’t have multiple lifetimes to spend decrypting.


The video below by Numberphile dives deeper into the math behind encryption and why we presently cannot crack it. Also discussed in this video is the previously used encryptions that have been broken and why we need to continue to upgrade our encryption over time. This video was also posted in our article What is Encryption? but provides valuable enough information that we’ve decided to again attach it here.

About Ryan Jeethan

Ryan is a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Arts & Business program focusing on UW’s unique Speech Communication program. 

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