If you're not keeping your personal identity protected online, you'll want to now. Some of the best-known financial institutions were victimized by a cyberattack that affected millions of people, and caused big swings in stock market prices.
In fact, it's the largest cyberattack ever against financial companies in the United States. Now, three men are about to pay for their crimes.
These men, two from Israel and one from the U.S. who's living in Russia, accessed the financial records of more than 100 million people. They were charged with about two dozen crimes, including identity theft and computer hacking. The Securities and Exchange Commission had previously filed a civil case against these cybercriminals for securities fraud.
Their scheme lasted from 2012 to 2015, and affected a dozen financial institutions. Among those were Fidelity, and 83 million customers of J.P. Morgan.
These cybercriminals stole people's identities to help manipulate stock prices, not to steal their financial account numbers. They would buy stocks for low prices, then they'd use stolen IDs to raise interest in those stocks, by sending emails touting those stocks to influential people in the financial industry.
Those stock prices would soar, then the three hackers would sell their shares. They made a fortune doing that. Worse, once they sold their shares, those stock prices would often fall because of a big sell-off. So, their victims were doubly victimized.
These scammers also made a boatload of money, to the tune of $18 million, with an illegal payment processing company they set up. Making that crime worse, they then hacked into a credit card company that was investigating their payment processing business. They also hacked into their competitors' computer systems, to spy on them.
"It is no longer hacking merely for a quick payout, but hacking to support a diversified criminal conglomerate," according to a U.S. federal prosecutor working on the case.