Wednesday, August 22, 2018

"How an international hacker network turned stolen press releases into $100 million"


Newswires like Business Wire are clearinghouses for corporate information, holding press releases, regulatory announcements, and other market-moving information under strict embargo before sending it out to the world. Over a period of at least five years, three US newswires were hacked using a variety of methods from SQL injections and phishing emails to data-stealing malware and illicitly acquired login credentials. Traders who were active on US stock exchanges drew up shopping lists of company press releases and told the hackers when to expect them to hit the newswires. The hackers would then upload the stolen press releases to foreign servers for the traders to access in exchange for 40 percent of their profits, paid to various offshore bank accounts. Through interviews with sources involved with both the scheme and the investigation, chat logs, and court documents, The Verge has traced the evolution of what law enforcement would later call one of the largest securities fraud cases in US history.

The case exemplifies the way insider trading has been quietly revolutionized by the internet. Traders no longer need someone inside a company to obtain inside information. Instead, they can turn to hackers, who can take their pick of security weaknesses: a large corporation or bank may have good in-house security, but the entities it works with — such as financial institutions, law firms, brokerages, smaller investment advisories, or, in this case, newswires — might not.