Last updated on February 22nd, 2022 at 06:13 pm

In a recent article on ‘5 Tips for Industrial IoT Security to Defend Against Cyberattacks’, Michael Yehoshua mentioned how cyber-attacks hitting critical infrastructures, especially in nation-state attacks, have become less motivated by money. Rather, many cyber criminals are interested in control, causing damage and spreading fear among people. Naturally, this mindset extends to the stock market. Stock prices are affected by changes in supply and demand, but also fluctuate with company health, economic reports, and trader sentiment.

Although it’s hard to quantify the impact of unexpected developments like a security breach on a company’s stock price, cybersecurity concerns have become inextricably linked with modern organizations — predominantly in blue-chip companies where technology played a key role in their development. According to FXCM, some of the most valuable stocks to date are for fast-moving, innovative companies like Tesla, Amazon, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, and Facebook, to name a few. Ownership of these stocks are prized because they are considered to be less volatile, but price fluctuations will still occur whenever these businesses face threats.

Often stronger businesses can take a hit and move past the legal fees and clean-up costs associated with cybersecurity issues. Weaker organizations take longer to recover, if they recover at all. In this article, we’ll take a look at how can cybersecurity issues affect stock prices and how companies should protect themselves moving forward:

Threat to national security

In 2020, a cyber-attack allegedly from Russian military hackers sabotaged a tiny piece of computer code buried in a piece of software popular among companies called SolarWinds. The hidden virus spread to 18,000 government and private computer networks by way of a software update, along Russian agents to rummage through digital files of the US departments of Justice, State, Treasure, Energy, and Commerce for nine months.

Experts have observed that when most breaches occur, the stock price dip is not drastic. However, it depends on the impact. Cases like the SolarWinds breach – which have a large impact on national security – receive a greater hit to the stock price because of how much confidential information was compromised. The vulnerability posed by the SolarWinds espionage campaign was harmful to corporate stock prices, which dropped from 17% to 20%, and took months to recover.

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Direct attacks to the market

Given the successful cyber-attacks against high-profile financial institutions, the possibility of hackers disrupting individual shares or funds in the stock market is very real. There are different scenarios for widespread financial chaos and major loss caused by hackers. Cyber attackers could inject false price quotes in data feeds, publish fake news through a reliable news organization, or generate an avalanche of non-existent sell orders — which would send stock prices tumbling down and potentially trigger a market crash.

Another possibility is if they manage to seize control of automated trading algorithms. Forbes reports how financial companies are using certain artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to automatically trade under specific conditions. The problem is that AI algorithms can easily be manipulated. For instance, an AI-driven stock market detector analyzes the market by counting mentions of stocks on the WallStreetBets forum. Hackers can flood the forum with the name of some share and cause price volatilities.


Loss of public confidence

Cyberattacks can erode consumer confidence and leave investors fuming. When breaches leak highly sensitive information like credit card or social security numbers, we see immediate stock price drops compared to breaches that involve less sensitive information. The bottom line of a business is also affected, as losses incur due to lost productivity or limited resources while a problem is being resolved. And even if you eventually rebound, you may underperform on the stock market for a longer period of time.

The International Journal of Accounting & Information Management notes that intentions to invest are higher when a cybersecurity risk framework is in place, along with good information quality and cybersecurity awareness. Some organizations also overcome cybersecurity breaches by showing their transparency and trustworthiness. They discuss what they did right to prepare for this eventuality, and then talk about their plans to improve it even more.

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