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Hackers Invade Nasdaq OMX Board Portal: We Ask, “Are These Things Really Ready For Prime Time?”

We are great fans of “secure board portals” – because they are huge time and money savers for corporate citizens charged with preparing “Board Books” – and because they provide great convenience to even modestly-tech-savvy Directors, who are constantly on-the-go these days – and because we believe their widespread adoption is inevitable.

But just as they seemed to be gaining major traction with public companies and Directors alike – came news that hackers had invaded the NASDAQ OMX data center – to gain access to their Directors Desk board portals…in the hope, one would presume, of gaining access to potentially marketmoving information.

Hard information about the hacking attempts is scarce at the moment – as one might imagine given the sensitivity here – and the ultimate goals of indentifying the perpetrators and what they might actually have gleaned – and making sure that all the ramparts have been completely secured. Here, all the players in this space are reluctant to talk too much about their defenses since this has the potential to be of use to future challengers to the corporate bulwarks.

We called big-provider Diligent Board Books, to see what they might have to say…which said. “No comment” – although they did offer to direct us to their PR agency. (And no comment from us either, thank you). BoardVantage sponsored a webcast on the subject, still available at www.directors&boards.com, that started off by noting that much “dis-information and mis-information” is out there, and promising to explain “What makes one system vulnerable and one not”…But frankly, aside from a pretty long list of essential security features a secure board portal should have in their view, it failed to answer the “sixty-four dollar question” – at least for us: “Are any of the Board Portals out there totally protected against invaders?” We think the honest answer is no. Hackers have invaded supposedly ironclad Federal sites, atomic energy installations…inserted fast-replicating viruses into corporate computers, swiped earnings releases in advance from some of the highest-tech companies out there…and then comes the guy with the Pringle can, hacking into our own networks from his car!

We also called several of the corporate folks we know who use “automated board books” to get their thoughts: “Would you be adopting them right now, if you didn’t have them?” No, most said, although every one we spoke to said they can’t imagine giving them up. “Did you get much blowback from Directors?” Yes…of course…as one would expect…but everyone pretty much recognized that attempted invasions ‘come with the territory’…and that paper records get lost, stolen or otherwise invaded by prying eyes – and are at least as vulnerable as “secure” web-portals and are probably more vulnerable. And none of the Directors at companies we called suggested abandoning the service.

The bottom line? Short-term, the once-growing momentum to move to “secure board portals” has hit a major speed-bump, for sure. But Directors know – maybe better than most folks – that you can’t stop progress – and the idea of abandoning Board Portals because there are hackers out there is a lot like abandoning cars because there are reckless drivers and car thieves around. More information will likely help big-time to get these programs back on track, so let’s hope that more will be forthcoming…soon.