Federal oversight related to hacking recently made headlines when a federal court in New Jersey granted the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) motion to freeze assets connected to a hedge fund manager accused of hacking unpublished news releases pertaining to publicly traded companies.

Syrian_hackerThe scheme involved David Amaryan, of Russian descent, who allegedly hacked into various newswire services to obtain press releases prior to their being made public. The releases mentioned a variety of public companies, including Caterpillar, Inc., and Panera Bread Co.  Amaryan, and companies associated with him, then allegedly traded publicly in the very same companies named in the hacked press releases.

Amaryan is among 32 defendants that the SEC has accused of participating in this insider trading scheme which, the SEC says, generated more than $100 million in illegal profits. The Amaryan-related defendants alone have been accused of reaping more than $8 million in illegal profits.  According to the judge, the SEC “raises a strong inference that the Amaryan defendants violated federal securities laws, which was not rebutted by the evidence offered in opposition by the Amaryan defendants.”

In his defense, Amaryan’s counsel argued that the allegations are false and “show a lack of appreciation for the manner in which investment funds operate and their investors maintain their assets.”

The Department of Justice appears to be investigating the matter in both New Jersey and New York, and nine individuals have been indicted to date.

It’s clear from these developments that not only is the federal government taking hacking seriously, but it also recognizes the relationship between hacking and other crimes, such as insider trading and securities fraud. While hacking has always been a threat to individual and corporate privacy, it now seems to be impacting our financial industry in ways not previously recognized.