For the very first time, the government is investigating cybercriminals suspected of insider trading. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating a group of hackers who appear to have systematically broken into email systems at biotech and health care companies. The SEC posits the hackers were specifically looking for information on mergers and other market-shaking events.
Eight companies have reportedly been contacted by the SEC for information on a possible compromise of their email systems. According to Reuters, this is the first time the SEC has asked companies about “possible breaches in connection with an insider trading probe.”
The bulk of the targeted companies come from the biotech and health care spheres. Reuters says the SEC investigation–and a parallel Secret Service investigation–were spurred by a late 2014 report from security firm FireEye about a group called Fin4. FireEye, previously covered by Fast Company, noted that the hackers targeted executives, legal counsel, consultants, and researchers. They gained access to the targets’ inboxes by creating imitations of Microsoft Outlook login pages, duping people into providing their user name and password information. It’s unclear at the moment how many companies were compromised.
The hackers appear to be from North America or Europe, as evidenced by fluency in English and detailed understanding of how financial operations work, according to FireEye.