Dec 02, 2014 09:26 AM EST

Cyber Ring Corporate Secrets Heist Uncovered: Cyber-Espionage Ring Threatens US Stock Market


Cyber Ring Corporate Secrets - FireEye Inc., a cyber-security firm, revealed on Monday that a cyber-espionage ring that aimed on stealing corporate secrets has threatened the US stock market. The firm discovered the operation that has compromised sensitive data of around dozens of publicly held companies.

Since the middle of last year, FireEye Inc. said the cyber-espionage ring stole corporate secrets by attacking email accounts of over 100 firms, most of them were pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. Japan Times reported firms in other sectors, along with corporate advisors, including investment bankers, attorneys and investor relations firms were also hacked.

FireEye Inc. refused to reveal the identity of the cyber-espionage ring victims but said that the firm did not know whether any businesses were actually made based on the stolen corporate data secrets. Jen Weedon, FireEye Threat Intelligence Manager, said the hackers only aimed at people with contact to very conspiratorial information that could be used to profit on trades before that data was publicly disclosed.

Weedon said the hackers sought information that included drafts of US Securities and Exchange Commission filings and documents on merger activity. NBC News reported the firm's threat manager added the group also searched for legal cases discussions, board planning documents and medical research results.

"They are pursuing sensitive information that would give them privileged insight into stock market dynamics," Weedon said. "They are applying their knowledge of how the investment banking community works."

Weedon added the cyber-espionage ring victimized small to large scale companies and most are in the US and trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or NASDAQ. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera America reported a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spokesperson refused to give any comments on the hackers that FireEye said it reported to the bureau.

FireEye Inc. has labelled the group of hackers as "FIN4" since it is ranked as fourth among the large, financially advanced-driven hackers tracked by the security firm. The cyber-security watchdog also said the cyber-espionage ring do not infect the victims' computers instead they steal passwords to email accounts then use them to access corporate secret accounts through the Internet.

Because the hackers hide their tracks using Tor, a service that makes Internet users' location unknown, it made it hard for FireEye Inc. to locate the group.

When assessing responsibility for economically motivated cyber-espionage, security researchers often look to China. The US has been accusing the Chinese government of encouraging cyber-hacking ring to steal corporate secrets. Though China has denied the allegations, it remained to cause tension between the two nations.

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