Network outages in three major industries all in the same day are raising major red flags among cyber security experts. Coincidence? Some think not.
On Wednesday, July 8, the New York Stock Exchange, United Airlines' computer system and the website for the Wall Street Journal all experienced outages that took them offline for a period of time.
In each instance, representatives said the outages were due to technical glitches, and not due to any sort of cyber attack—but many experts are questioning those statements.
Michael Zweiback, former chief of the U.S. Attorney's Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section in Los Angeles, told CBS the fact that "three major sectors" of commerce were all hit on the same day raises a huge suspicion.
“This affected crucial areas — travel and the most significant sector in the financial world,” Zweiback said. “We need to understand what took place in order to prevent the next one. We have to find out whether these were intentional attacks or malware that was probing the systems to determine whether there were any widespread vulnerabilities."
Zweiback all but implied that reports that the outages were all caused by technical glitches may be premature, even if unintentionally.
“This could've been a reconnaissance effort,” he said. “Although it's plausible that these were glitches, it could also be more than coincidental.”
One haunting clue that the NYSE outage may have been intentional came in the form of a tweet by the hacker group known as Anonymous, also believed responsible for the massive hack of Sony Pictures' email network earlier this year.
"Wonder if tomorrow is going to be bad for Wall Street….We can only hope," was posted to the Twitter account @YourAnonNews Tuesday evening—just 12 hours before all stock trading was suspended due to the alleged glitch, as reported by TIME Magazine.
However, TIME points out the tweet could also have been referring to the ongoing debt crisis in Greece and economic uncertainty in China.
As for United Airlines, Wednesday was the second time in just two months that "technical glitches" grounded the company's flights nationwide.
In early June, some theorized that bomb threats called in to the airline in a desire to thwart United's business may have been responsible, and the company attempted to cover it up with the "glitch" explanation.
Late Wednesday, outlets such as Forbes reported that United was officially blaming a "faulty router" for "degraded network connectivity" that led to the FAA grounding flights for a full two hours, followed by a ripple effect of delayed flights throughout the rest of the day.
But again, some analysts claim that the fact the problems happened on the same day as outages at the NYSE and Wall Street Journal is too large to ignore.
In the case of the Wall Street Journal's temporary website outage, some theorized that the connection lies in the fact the news publication is the definitive expert on all matters relating to the NYSE—therefore, what better target for malicious hackers than the one news source most would turn to in a stock exchange outage?
FBI Director James Corney told the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, that may be the very reason why the site went down all on its own.
“I think the Wall Street Journal [outage] is connected to people flooding their web site in response to the New York Exchange to find out what's going on," Fox News quotes him as saying. “In my business we don't love coincidences, but it does appear that there is not a cyber-intrusion involved.”
It appears the White House isn't taking experts' explanations as gospel just yet, though, either way.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that, even if reports that the outages were all coincidental and indeed caused by glitches are true, the Obama administration is “keenly aware of the risk that exists in cyber space right now.”
It appears the true reason behind each of the glitches may take several days to be revealed.