U.S. SEC Responds to Breach of X Account with False Information

U.S. SEC Responds to Breach of X Account with False Information

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently faced a breach of its X account, leading to the dissemination of false information. On January 9, an unknown actor performed a SIM swap attack, which allowed them to gain access to the SEC’s X account and publish a fraudulent message claiming that the SEC had approved several spot Bitcoin ETFs. Despite the eventual approval of these funds on January 10, the initial message was proven to be inauthentic. In response to lawmakers’ concerns, Gary Gensler, the chair of the SEC, expressed the seriousness with which the SEC takes its cybersecurity obligations.

In a letter to House members Patrick McHenry, Bill Huizenga, French Hill, and Ann Wagner, Gensler assured them that the SEC is dedicated to addressing the breach and its aftermath. The SEC’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs arranged a briefing on January 17 to provide more clarity on the incident and address the questions raised by lawmakers. By doing so, the SEC met the deadline set by the House members for a response.

Apart from the House members’ request, Senators Ron Wyden and Cynthia Lummis sent a separate letter on January 11, urging the SEC to investigate multi-factor authentication and phishing-resistant hardware tokens, commonly known as security keys. Their request also emphasized the importance of closing any existing security gaps. Although an update on this matter was expected on February 12, Gensler’s letter did not address the senators’ concerns, and no other response has been reported thus far.

Within his letter, Gensler disclosed crucial details regarding the timeline of the attack and the current status of the investigation. Law enforcement agencies are actively working to determine how the attacker was able to convince the carrier service to switch the SIM associated with the SEC’s X account. Furthermore, efforts are being made to understand how the attacker obtained the phone number linked to the SEC’s account. Gensler’s acknowledgment of the breach on January 9 makes him the first official to publicly confirm the compromise of the SEC’s X account. While he previously released a comprehensive statement on the incident on January 12, his letter to lawmakers, which dates back to February 6, remained undisclosed until Politico reported on it on February 8.

The Broader Reaction to Gensler’s Letter

The circulation of Gensler’s letter gained attention in various sources, drawing greater awareness to the breach and subsequent response by the SEC. The delay in the publicization of the letter highlights a potential oversight in terms of effectively communicating crucial updates to the relevant stakeholders impacted by the breach.

The breach of the SEC’s X account and the dissemination of false information regarding the approval of Bitcoin ETFs has prompted the SEC to address the matter seriously. Gensler’s letter to lawmakers and the subsequent briefing on January 17 demonstrate the SEC’s commitment to cybersecurity obligations. However, the lack of a response to Senators Wyden and Lummis’ request raises questions about the SEC’s approach to addressing potential security gaps. Moving forward, it is vital for the SEC to enhance its communication strategies to ensure timely and transparent updates on ongoing investigations and actions taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.


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