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New high-frequency trading thriller hits shelves

Could the New York Stock Exchange be hacked by cyberthieves? It's one thing to hack into Target's database and steal credit card data, but would it be possible for cybercrooks to infiltrate the trading system of the NYSE?

Mark Russinovich thinks it's possible. He sold his software company, Winternals, to Microsoft in 2006 and is now a technical fellow for Microsoft, its senior-most technical position. He's got a Ph.D. in computer engineering.

In other words, he knows a lot about computer coding and hacking.

He's also a novelist. His new techno-thriller, "Rogue Code," is just out.

When cybersecurity expert Jeff Aiken is called to investigate a possible security breach at the NYSE, he discovers that the system has indeed been infiltrated.

Mark Russinovich
Source: Mark Russinovich | Twitter
Mark Russinovich

And not just the "public" part of the NYSE, the part that can be accessed by the public. The software that runs the trading system itself, which is not accessible to anyone but NYSE programmers, has been infiltrated.

The hackers—who appear to have help from inside the NYSE—use high-frequency trading to jump ahead of other orders to buy and sell stock, diverting the funds into offshore accounts.

To compound the problems, the NYSE is conducting an upgrade of its system to handle a huge IPO for a Facebook-type company, but the upgrade appears buggy. The company, NYSE programmers, and buyers of the IPO are worried that the new system will be rushed into use without adequate testing, that it could be hacked, or that high-frequency traders could exploit weaknesses in the system.

It's the intersection between cybercrime, ruthless global crime cartels, white-collar crime and high-frequency trading.

It's not his first stab at the techno-thriller genre. In 2011, he penned "Zero Day," about a cyberterrorism attack on the computer infrastructure of the U.S., then in 2012 he published "Trojan Horse," which centered around state-sponsored cyber-espionage, using a computer virus that infects the United Nations.

In other words, this is a guy who is plenty concerned that the technology we are using is vulnerable.

In "Rogue Code" he turns his attention to financially motivated cybercrime.

I spoke with Mark from the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.

—By CNBC's Bob Pisani.

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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