Motives are unclear, but financial gain, theft and potential terrorism are all possibilities.
The Feds consider hacking Nasdaq OMX the equivalent of messing with utilities or other key infrastructure.
Hackers didn't do anything nefarious, but just poked around.
This news is very worrisome for obvious reasons. First, the Nasdaq OMX doesn't know if it covered all of its weak spots. And if hackers did eventually get to electronic trading systems---algorithms rule the stock market roost these days---they could spark a crash that would make last May's "flash crash" look like a day at the beach.
Security breaches are listed as a risk factor in Nasdaq OMX's annual report:
Our systems and operations also are vulnerable to damage or interruption from human error, natural disasters, power loss, sabotage or terrorism, computer viruses, intentional acts of vandalism and similar events. We have programs in place to identify and minimize our exposure to these vulnerabilities and work in collaboration with the technology industry to share corrective measures with our business partners. Although we currently maintain and expect to maintain multiple computer facilities that are designed to provide redundancy and back-up to reduce the risk of system disruptions and have facilities in place that are expected to maintain service during a system disruption, such systems and facilities may prove inadequate. Any system failure that causes an interruption in service or decreases the responsiveness of our services could impair our reputation, damage our brand name and negatively impact our business, financial condition and operating results.