Security warning for online traders

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: ASIC says it was during regular surveillance of financial markets that it noticed signs of an intruder. And there's more than one person involved in this operation.

ASIC's head of market supervision, Greg Yanco, says it appears that an accomplice is buying shares at the normal price and then putting them up for sale at an inflated price. The hacked accounts are then used to buy those overpriced shares.

ASIC says it knows of about 12 accounts which have hacked but only a few have been used for unauthorised transactions. It's the first time that has happened in Australia.

Doug Clark is the policy executive with the Stockbroker's Association of Australia.

DOUG CLARK: We gather at this stage that it's quite a significant matter. And it's certainly one that is of concern to the industry because it involves, not just access to client information but also trading directly on client accounts.

SIMON LAUDER: How unusual is this breach?

DOUG CLARK: Well I haven't heard of one which involves accessing client information and then trading. I haven't heard of one that takes it to the next stage of trading.

SIMON LAUDER: And I understand that the accounts which have been targeted are those which have been dormant for some time. So presumably the culprit has been watching and picking targets for a while?

DOUG CLARK: Presumably that could be correct, yes. I mean we don't have the full details. I gather, you know, ASIC's investigation is continuing.

SIMON LAUDER: ASIC's Greg Yanco has told AM the total amount of money missing is a couple of hundred thousand dollars. ASIC is leading the investigation, although the Federal Police are believed to have been informed. ASIC is also working with authorities in other countries to try to trace the hackers.

Mr Yanco says the theft should serve as a warning to anyone who trades shares online. He advises users of online stockbroking accounts to immediately upgrade virus protection software, then check their transaction history and change their password.

EMILY BOURKE: Simon Lauder.

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