DOJ: Hacking schemes 'breathtaking in size and scope' targeted 12 companies, got data on 100 million

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Expanding charges in a case against two Israeli men and a U.S. citizen, a federal prosecutor on Tuesday unsealed a superseding indictment (PDF) and accused them of playing a role in a sprawling years-long series of hacking schemes that stole personal data for 100 million people and targeted a dozen companies.

“By any measure, the data breaches at these firms were breathtaking in scope and in size,” and demonstrate a “brave new world of hacking for profit,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a Tuesday news conference in Manhattan. A related case is also being pursued in Atlanta.

Corporations targeted in a claimed conspiracy involving computer hacking, securities fraud, gambling, wire fraud and money laundering, among other illegal activities, included JPMorgan Chase & Co., other financial institutions such as brokerages and the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, according to Reuters.

Among other alleged criminal conduct dating back as far as 2007 and continuing until recently, the claimed conspiracy in which the defendants are accused of playing central roles was involved in money laundering, processing payments for criminals and pump-and-dump stock frauds, according to Bharara. Hacked information was actually used by the enterprise, the feds say. For example, they would send messages to stolen email addresses persuading users to buy securities at inflated prices.

Much of the data was stolen from JPMorgan Chase, where information concerning 83 million customers was breached over a several-month period last year. That intrusion was previously made public, but this is the first time that defendants Joshua Samuel Aaron, 31, a U.S. citizen, and Israeli citizens Gery Shalon, 31, the claimed mastermind, and Ziv Orenstein, 40, have been blamed for it, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) report. Shalon and Orenstein are in custody in Israel, and Aaron, who lives in Moscow and Israel, is being sought.

The Atlanta indictment names Shalon, Aaron and a third unidentified person, who are accused of compromising personal information of 10 million customers at multiple brokerages, Reuters reports.

Shalon is also accused of hiding at least $100 million in Swiss accounts and other banks.

JPMorgan said Tuesday that it is cooperating in the battle against cybercrime. Stolen information for customers included only contact information, the financial services giant said, and did not include social security numbers or account passwords, Reuters reports.

A spokeswoman for Wall Street Journal parent company Dow Jones told a WSJ reporter that it also is cooperating fully.

Lawyers for the defendants either could not be reached or did not respond to requests for comment, the newspaper reports.

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