Cloud Computing and the Security of Capital Markets

I recently sat down with Danial Faizullabhoy from the Norwich University Applied Research Institutes (NUARI) to recount the story of the Quantum Dawn 2 (QD2) project. The purpose of QD2 was to test the security of capital markets during cyber attacks and other catastrophic events.

Norwich University has been a Skytap customer for quite a while, using Skytap Cloud technology for teaching and training purposes. Given the success with Skytap Cloud in these areas, NUARI turned to Skytap for help in making their client application available to simulation participants in a secure, yet accessible, manner. The resulting article was published in Wall Street & Technology.

From the article:

​Securing capital markets, which have become almost wholly dependent on technology, is in the national interest of every developed country. Disruptions to the market can cause serious problems for world economies and have a devastating impact on individual countries and their citizens—take for example hurricane Sandy that resulted in a two-day market shutdown even with extensive backup solutions and emergency preparedness planning in place.

​While technology enables and drives capital markets, it also represents one of the market’s biggest vulnerabilities. As such, it is essential that all market participants be prepared for any number of market disruptions including cyber attacks and other disruptive events.

​In the past, individual brokers, exchanges, and other market participants ran vulnerability tests and simulations for their own organizations. While these firm- or agency-specific tests are absolutely essential, they fail to provide a picture of how the market, as a whole, would respond to specific malicious activity. The need for market-wide assessments of attack readiness have become vitally important as market participants, as well as global markets, become increasingly interdependent.

Earlier this year, NUARI teamed up with key players in US equity markets to simulate a range of cyber attacks that could potentially impact not only individual market participants, but also the market as a whole. 500 individual participants took part in the simulation. The event was called Quantum Dawn 2 and received considerable coverage in popular media.

​Simulation participants represented exchanges, broker-dealers, the SEC, Department of Homeland Security, utility companies, and others.

​In order to create a realistic experience for participants, NUARI designed and deployed an isolated simulation system that allowed participants to react to market disruptions caused by a wide range of attacks and events. Individual participants accessed the NUARI system from their own locations, in part, to assess their organization’s response to cyber attacks and the policies surrounding IT security.

Skytap Cloud allows for the rapid deployment of complex virtual data centers (VDC) and for simple and secure sharing of these virtual resources in the form of browser-based access to VM consoles. NUARI built out VDC templates and then created individual VDCs for each simulation participant that would provide browser-based access to the simulation client software. As a result, participant firms were not required to adjust existing security policies.

In addition, the use of virtual desktops allowed for tight control of the virtual desktop environment, thus eliminating the need to support disparate and diverse systems. The use of virtual desktops, and the ease with which these desktops could be shared, enabled broad participation in the Quantum Dawn 2 simulation ensuring that both the exercise itself and the various responses to simulated attacks was as realistic and meaningful as possible.

You can read the full story at the Wall Street & Technology website: Does Cloud Computing Make The Capital Markets More Secure?

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