New Zealand hit with unprecedented wave of cyberattacks targeting stock market, banks, justice minister says

The cyberattacks are being routed through thousands of computers

New Zealand’s justice minister says his country is being bombarded by an unprecedented wave of cyberattacks targeting entities such as banks and its stock market in what intelligence officials suspect is part of a global campaign.

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Andrew Little said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that tracking down the perpetrators of the intrusions in recent weeks would be extremely difficult as the distributed denial of service attacks are being routed through thousands of computers.

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The attacks stopped share trading for up to several hours at a time over four days last week. Private company NZX, which hosts the stock market, said it halted trading to maintain market integrity because the attacks prevented it from publishing market announcements.

The New Zealand Stock Exchange board is shown on the side of Jarden Building in central Auckland, New Zealand, on Friday. New Zealand's government and overseas spy agency are getting involved after ongoing cyber attacks have disrupted the New Zealand

Little said the attackers had found vulnerabilities in the stock market's operations.

“That motivated them to continue the attack, and they picked on other organizations as well,” he said.

One of those was the bank TSB, which was hit Tuesday. Chief Executive Donna Cooper said the attack disrupted some of its services but it had a plan in place and the bank remained sound.

Another bank, Westpac, said it successfully repelled an attack two weeks ago and hadn't been hit again since. News organizations Stuff and RNZ reported they had repelled attacks over the weekend.

The weather organization MetService was also hit this week, switching its website to a stripped-down version in order to stay online.

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Little said he's been told the sheer volume of data used by the attackers is unprecedented.

New Zealand's foreign spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, is helping with the investigation and working to protect companies targeted in what it says appears to be part of a global campaign.

One line of investigation is the emails sent to people in some of the targeted organizations demanding a ransom in exchange for stopping the attacks, Little said. The official advice is to never, ever pay a ransom.

NZX said despite more attacks on its website, so far this week it has been able to trade uninterrupted.

“NZX has been advised by independent cyber specialists that the attacks last week are among the largest, most well-resourced and sophisticated they have ever seen in New Zealand," Chief Executive Mark Peterson said in a statement.

Little said the attacks were a wake-up call to all organizations with customer-facing websites.

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Only a few organizations seem to have been targeted at any one time and most have been able to repel the attacks, giving him confidence the country can move past them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.