Hackers Dug Up Embargoed Press Releases to Game Wall Street

Financial Services

Rogue Wall Street traders allegedly gave overseas hackers a wish list of confidential corporate newswires to steal.

The group apparently placed trades based on the not-yet-public data, ultimately accruing $100 million in illicit proceeds.

Some of the Ukraine-based computer crackers would email instructions to U.S. traders about how to reach the pilfered releases from an offshore server. One email even included a “how-to video.”

“In an indictment against five of the men, federal prosecutors in New Jersey said the men broke into companies like Business Wire and PR Newswire over five years to steal more than 150,000 news releases posted by publicly traded corporations before the information was released to the public,” the New York Times summarizes.

The stolen news gave the fraudulent traders a leg up on others in the stock market by allowing the crooks to make exchanges before the releases hit the wires.

The traders “paid the hackers a flat fee or a percentage of the profits gained from the illegal trading,” according to the Times.

The hackers obtained information from over 30 companies, including Bank of America, Clorox, Caterpillar and Honeywell.

“In an email sent by one of the traders, the instructions for accessing the overseas server suggested that users conceal their Internet Protocol address when accessing the server as a precaution to avoid detection,” according to the indictments. 

The men often communicated via email and online chat messages, openly writing what they were doing.

For example, one of the defendants wrote in Russian in an online chat message, “I’m hacking prnewswire.com.”  In another online chat, a defendant said he had compromised the login credentials of 15 Business Wire employees.

In November 2012, authorities seized the laptop of one of the hackers and found around 200 nonpublic news releases from PR Newswire.