Nine people were charged with stealing over 150,000 unpublished press releases from top business news outlets in the “biggest scheme of its kind,” the FBI says. The stolen information was allegedly used to generate $30 million in illegal profits from stock market trades.
Between 2010 and 2015, a pair of Ukraine-based computer hackers broke into servers of newswire companies Marketwired L.P., PR Newswire Association LLC (PRN) and Business Wire. The attackers also apparently obtained log-in credentials of 15 Business Wire employees.
They stole 150,000 confidential, unpublished press releases. The materials contained financial information of top companies such as Align Technology, Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett Packard, Home Depot and Verisign Inc. The conspirators typically used the advance information to buy stock options ahead of changes in stock price, authorities said.
The hackers traded on information from more than 800 stolen press releases before their public release.
“The defendants were a well-organized group that allegedly robbed the newswire companies and their clients and cheated the securities markets and the investing public by engaging in an unprecedented hacking and trading scheme,” said US Attorney Fishman. “The defendants launched a series of sophisticated and relentless cyber-attacks against three major newswire companies, stole highly confidential information and used to enrich themselves at the expense of public companies and their shareholders.”
The cyber-crime gang members were charged with wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.
As a result of the scheme, the government seized 17 bank and brokerage accounts containing more than $6.5 million. 12 properties worth more than $5.5 million combined were also taken, including a shopping center in Pennsylvania, an apartment building in Georgia, and a houseboat.