Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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The NYSE shutdown: What happens now?

July 9, 2015

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Wednesday wasn’t a great day for the New York Stock Exchange.

Traders saw blank screens for nearly four hours on Wednesday after a technological glitch forced the NYSE to suspend trading.

The glitch, longest yet for the NYSE, raised concerns over possible cyber-terrorism and brought more anxiety to traders already dealing with uncertainty in Greece and a downturn in China.

To make things worse, the shutdown came on the same day that the Wall Street Journal’s website stopped working and United Airlines was forced to ground flights for nearly two hours thanks to a technical glitch of its own.

But after the NYSE glitch was fixed and terrorism was ruled out, analysts asked a perennial question. Is it a good idea to have so many important things reliant on technology?

There wasn’t much financial fallout from the halt yesterday, and things returned to normal relatively quickly, but it certainly does expose some of the risk in today’s technological world.

In the last 15 years, trading has been suspended at the NYSE four times because of technical problems, according to USA Today. And while NYSE-listed stocks were still trading on 11 different exchanges, it was the longest closure for computer problems ever for the NYSE, The Washington Post reports.

Even if the problem wasn’t caused by criminals or terrorists, the incident shows what’s at risk with an online world full of hackers and bugs.

The most recent cyber-attack on Target resulted in the exposure of 40 million card accounts, USA Today reports, and the government suffers from these problems as well. The Obamacare website crash was a very public problem and the Consular Consolidated Database, which handles the nation’s passport system, crashed just last month.

At a local level, a glitches are especially bad for both small and large businesses, even if there isn’t the loss of any sensitive information.

A survey of over 1,000 business around the world by the communications technology company xMatters found that 45 percent of respondents felt that business is negatively affected if IT is down for even just 15 minutes or less.

“Over time, IT departments have learned to deal with outages and glitches, but when these ‘technical’ incidents have widespread business impact, companies are still struggling to figure out how to handle major incidents,” xMatters CMO Randi Barshack said in a press release after the shutdown yesterday.

Still, others think the ease and convenience technology brings is worth the risks. Many have pointed to the fact that trading was still happening during the glitch to support their claims. As CNN Money reported:

“This is basically the good thing about electronic trading quite frankly — the customer doesn’t have to rely on any one venue,” says Ted Weisberg, president of Seaport Securities, who has been working at the NYSE for several decades.

For story ideas, talk to some local investment firms in your area and find out how they were affected. Ask them how they feel about the future of investing and if a glitch like this is cause for worry.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of xMatters CMO Randi Barshack. It has been corrected.

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