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SEC Dinged for Security Failures - Laptops Left Vulnerable to Attack

According to Reuters, citing a yet-to-be-released report and people familiar with the issue, staffers at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission left sensitive documents vulnerable to attackers by failing to protect it properly. 

As things stand, there is no evidence that any of the staffers’ laptops were compromised. The systems in question were reportedly used by staffers within the SEC’s Trading and Markets Division, which is responsible for enforcing guidelines that exchanges use to protect themselves from cyber threats – ironically the same types of threats that the unprotected laptops were exposed too.

Making matters worse for the SEC, there is evidence that says the unprotected corporate equipment was taken to Black Hat last year, where the network is mostly safe from compromise. However, if they stayed over for DefCon, then that’s another matter entirely.

Rich Adamonis, a spokesman for the New York Stock Exchange, told Reuters that they were "disappointed" in the SEC's security breakdown.

"From the moment we were informed, we have been actively seeking clarity from the SEC to understand the full extent of the use of improperly secured devices and the information involved, as well as the actions taken by the SEC to ensure that there is proper remediation and a complete audit trail for the information," he said.

The final report on the matter is expected to be released to the public soon. The SEC’s five commissioners have already seen it, and a source familiar with the incident told Reuters that the agency had to spend $200,000 on consulting fees in order to determine if the under protected laptops led to any kind of data breach.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.