FBI probes cyberattacks on top law firms: report

The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI are investigating data breaches at some of the country’s most prestigious law firms, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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The probe, which began in the past year, is focused on whether the hackers stole confidential information for the purposes of insider trading, according to people familiar with the matter.

Currently, the impacted firms include Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP — but the hackers are threatening to attack more in online postings, the sources told the Journal.

The two firms represent Wall Street banks and Fortune 500 companies in both lawsuits and mergers and acquisitions negotiations.

Cravath said it was “not aware that any of the information that may have been accessed has been used improperly," calling the breach "limited." Weil Gotshal, the FBI and the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Experts believe there are likely multiple cyber crime groups digitally pilfering information to illegally play the stock market in a way that is barely perceptible to authorities.

For years, insider trading was relatively easy to spot: It often involved a big bet on a single stock, former federal officials told The Hill late last year. But in a digital era, spotting insider trading involves mapping and detailing activity over several years to see if an individual or company is consistently beating the market.

In July, four people were arrested for allegedly manipulating stocks and orchestrating a series of cyberattacks on financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase.

In August, federal authorities brought civil or criminal charges against 32 people and companies that allegedly conspired to steal unpublished financial press releases and shuttle that information to traders. Together, officials say the group made more than $100 million in profits off illegal trades.

Traders could even create “shopping lists” or “wish lists” for the hackers, according to the indictment.

“The hackers were running a business,” Matthew Schwartz, a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York from 2005 to 2015, told The Hill at the time. “They were selling that information, they were taking orders.”

Security researchers see the sweeping criminal ring as a harbinger of things to come. And law firms are particularly attractive targets for hackers because of the sensitive and valuable information they hold, which could be used for everything from identity theft to insider trading.

“Law firms are being deluged with attempts to crack their systems,” a senior partner at a top law firm told the Journal.