As we previously discussed, nobody is safe from cybersecurity threats, and as our colleagues last reported, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has heightened its cybersecurity scrutiny, issuing an investigative report on cyber fraud against publicly traded companies and signaling it will pursue both bad actors as well as companies failing to implement controls to detect and prevent hacking. A victim of a data breach itself, the SEC is now demonstrating how it intends to pursue bad actors.
On January 15, the SEC filed a civil suit in US District Court in the District of New Jersey related to its own hacking against individuals and business entities in Ukraine, Hong Kong, California, Belize, Russia, and Korea. The SEC alleges in the suit that the defendants hacked into the agency’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval (EDGAR) system through a variety of means—including phishing emails and malware—and stole information (namely, publicly-traded companies’ earnings information). The suit further alleges the defendants then traded securities based on the stolen information before it became public. The SEC argues all defendants were necessary participants in the “fraudulent scheme” as some defendants were required to “obtain, through deception, material nonpublic information from the SEC’s EDGAR system” and others were required to “monetize the material nonpublic information by making profitable trades.” The SEC requests the district court to permanently enjoin the defendants from engaging in unlawful conduct, order the return of all profits and/or gains realized from the trading, and impose civil penalties on the defendants.