By Sarah N. Lynch and Joseph Menn WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. securities regulators are investigating a group of hackers suspected of breaking into corporate email accounts to steal information to trade on, such as confidential details about mergers, according to people familiar with the matter. The Securities and Exchange Commission has asked at least eight listed companies to provide details of their data breaches, one of the people said. The unusual move by the agency reflects increasing concerns about cyber attacks on U.S. companies and government agencies. It is an "absolute first" for the SEC to approach companies about possible breaches in connection with an insider trading probe, said John Reed Stark, a former head of Internet enforcement at the SEC. "The SEC is interested because failures in cybersecurity have prompted a dangerous, new method of unlawful insider trading," said Stark, now a private cybersecurity consultant. According to people familiar with the matter, the SEC's inquiry and a parallel probe by the U.S. Secret Service - which investigates cyber crimes and financial fraud - were spurred by a December report by security company FireEye Inc about a sophisticated hacking group that it dubbed "FIN4." Since mid-2013, FIN4 has tried to hack into email accounts at more than 100 companies, looking for confidential information on mergers and other market-moving events. The targets include more than 60 listed companies in biotechnology and other healthcare-related fields, such as medical instruments, hospital equipment and drugs, according to the FireEye report. The SEC declined to comment. A Secret Service spokesman said the agency does not comment on pending investigations. FIN4 TACTICS The SEC has asked companies for data on cyber intrusions or attempted intrusions, as well as information on the tactics that the unknown hackers used to lure employees into giving up email passwords, known as "spear phishing" or "credential harvesting," people familiar with the investigation said. Stark said he saw some of the SEC's requests for documents from companies, but he was not familiar with the scope of the investigation. He and other sources declined to name the targeted companies because of client relationships and because the SEC investigation is confidential. It could not be learned if the SEC is only looking into the FIN4 group or if its probe is broader. Milpitas, California-based FireEye said it believed the FIN4 hackers could be from the United States or Europe because they had flawless English and a deep understanding of how the financial markets and investment banking work. The hackers targeted healthcare and pharmaceutical companies because their stocks tend to be volatile, and thus potentially more profitable. In one case, the hackers had sought information about Medicaid rebates and government purchasing decisions, FireEye said. FireEye's clients were among the companies targeted by the hackers, who used fake Microsoft Outlook login pages to trick attorneys, executives and consultants into surrendering their user names and passwords. "What was insidiously brilliant was that they could inject themselves into email threads and keep gleaning information," said FireEye's manager of threat intelligence, Laura Galante. "They really knew their audience." In at least one case, FireEye said, the hackers used a confidential document, containing significant information that they had already procured, to entice people discussing that matter into giving their email credentials. FireEye said it had briefed the FBI about its findings. CIVIL CASE As concerns about cybersecurity grew, the SEC in 2011 issued guidance for public companies on disclosing breaches. Companies are not required to disclose any breaches unless they are deemed to be "material" under federal securities laws. The probe is unusual for the SEC, which has typically searched for questionable trading activity in stocks and options when investigating insider trading cases, said Stark. The SEC only has the power to bring civil cases, so any possible criminal cases resulting from the probe would be brought by a federal prosecutor. Until now, the SEC has only brought a handful of civil cases against hackers. In 2007, the agency filed civil charges against a Ukrainian trader named Oleksandr Dorozhko whom they accused of hacking into IMS Health and stealing information on earnings that he used to make profitable options trades. In 2010, a federal court ordered Dorozhko to pay $580,000. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington and Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Tiffany Wu)
- Raleigh News and Observer
Darnella Frazier, the teen who filmed George Floyd’s death, reacted to the verdict with relief and tears.
- Business Insider
Iran says it only enriched its uranium to 60% as a show of strength, and can revert to nuclear-deal levels if the US lifts sanctions
Iran said it wanted to show its strength after an attack on its Natanz nuclear plant earlier this month, which it blames Israel for.
The Ingenuity drone completes the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another world.
- The Independent
DC statehood: GOP Reps argue capital wouldn’t qualify as congressional district despite population being greater than two states
If the district became a state, it would add two Senate seats, which would likely be filled by Democrats
- The Independent
‘US should not strike an agreement with federal government because it won’t be fulfilled’ São Paulo governor says
Four crew members from a cargo ship that ran aground off the southern Philippines have died, while seven have been rescued and a search is continuing for nine others, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Wednesday. The crew of LCT Cebu Great Ocean abandoned the vessel, which was carrying nickel ore and 2,000 litres of diesel, before it ran aground in Surigao del Norte province on Monday, the coast guard said. The bodies of the four crew members were found after being washed onto the shore, while the seven were rescued in various parts of the southern province after reaching land, Gelly Rosales, a coast guard official, told Reuters.
- The Independent
The 43rd president refuses to blame Trump for direction of GOP
- WCVB - Boston
In Boston, a new office of police accountability and transparency promises to serve as a check on the police department.
- The Daily Beast
Anas Alkharboutli/GettyA group of British academics was secretly in contact with Russian diplomats in four separate embassies as they worked to undermine evidence that Bashar al-Assad was using chemical weapons against his own people, according to emails seen by The Daily Beast.The documents were obtained as part of a sting operation on one member of the group that was disclosed last month by the BBC and The Times of London. Paul McKeigue, a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine, was duped into sharing the inner workings of the so-called Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media by emails from someone calling himself “Ivan,” who implied he was a Russian intelligence officer.The Working Group consists of a handful of university professors (none with any expertise in Syria or the Middle East), who have spent years suggesting that the Assad regime has been framed for war crimes in an elaborate conspiracy consisting of Syrian rebels, White Helmet rescue workers, and the American and British intelligence services. Moreover, the Working Group alleges that conspiracy has been systematically laundered through journalists, academics and human rights workers who they believe to be CIA or MI6 agents.Some of these completely unproven theories have been taken up enthusiastically on social media and used to sow disinformation about Assad’s war crimes.In an apparent effort to further the conspiracy theories, McKeigue was all too happy to collude with someone he thought was one of Vladimir Putin’s spies.In the emails with “Ivan,” McKeigue boasted about his interactions with Russian officials, a journalist who worked for the Russian state media and WikiLeaks, which “very likely knew it was assisting a Russian intelligence influence effort” during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a Senate Subcommittee on Intelligence report.McKeigue told “Ivan” in February that WikiLeaks had helped him secure free legal advice from one of Julian Assange’s personal lawyers, Melinda Taylor.The emails claim that Taylor had been communicating with the British epidemiologist since at least September 2019, when she sent him a lengthy “legal advice memorandum” detailing ways to make litigious claims against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental body that seeks to implement the worldwide ban on the stockpiling and use of chemical weapons such as sarin gas, which suffocates its drooling and vomiting victims to death.McKeigue refers to the memorandum as one way of conducting “lawfare” against the chemical watchdog—a term typically invoked to mean frivolous or harassing litigation. He said Taylor provided him with the memorandum, pro bono, to advance claims of impropriety among members of the OPCW.According to the emails, the advice memorandum also led to Taylor’s husband, Geoffrey Roberts, representing Brendan Whelan, a former OPCW employee who went rogue and criticized the group’s investigations, leaking material to WikiLeaks.McKeigue told “Ivan” that he could reach Whelan via Alexander Shulgin, Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands and its permanent representative to the OPCW.“Brendan keeps in contact with your embassy in Den Haag,” McKeigue wrote. “So if you wanted someone to make an introduction (for one of your diplomats, not in a covert role) to Melinda [Taylor] and Geoff [Roberts], this would be a possible route. Brendan knows them better than I do.”McKeigue, Taylor and Roberts declined to comment to The Daily Beast.The emails also show that Taylor corresponded with McKeigue to discuss the secret location of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), an NGO that has compiled documentary evidence of war crimes in Syria carried out by the Assad regime and ISIS. Some of their evidence was used in the first successful Syrian war crimes prosecution in Germany.It was CIJA that orchestrated the sting on McKeigue when they grew frustrated by the Working Group’s fixation on undermining evidence against Assad. CIJA was running the “Ivan” account all along.In the correspondence collected by the NGO, McKeigue outlined to his presumed Russian intelligence contact “complicated lines of communication” between the Working Group and a network of Russian Foreign Ministry officials in four separate embassies around the world: The Hague, New York, London, and Geneva. Russian diplomats, he noted, had been corresponding with members of the Working Group for a presentation at a January 2020 Arria formula meeting of the UN Security Council, convened by Russia in order to sow skepticism about the OPCW’s still-pending investigation.McKeigue wrote that he worked personally with Stepan Ankeev, an official at the Russian embassy in London, to put the plan in motion, while his Working Group associates kept in touch with other Russian diplomats in other countries. “But in the end it all worked out okay,” McKeigue wrote. “The only other diplomatic communication we have had is with Sergey Krutskikh in Geneva, who is Vanessa’s contact but has occasionally passed information to the Working Group via Piers.”“Piers” refers to Piers Robinson, the founder of the Working Group and an outspoken commentator on Syria on Twitter. “Vanessa” is Vanessa Beeley, perhaps the most prominent and controversial member of the Working Group. A former waste management consultant turned blogger, Beeley became a fixture on RT, the Russian government’s English language propaganda network, for her willingness to add all manner of unsubstantiated and imaginative allegations about the Syria conflict.She has repeatedly accused the White Helmets, an internationally funded rescue organization, of staging chemical attacks in Syria otherwise attributed to the Assad regime.Beeley and Robinson’s purported contact in Switzerland, Sergey Krutskikh, is secretary to Russia’s mission at the UN. He is also the son of a better-known Russian diplomat, Andrey Krutskikh, who was appointed early last year as the first director of Russian Foreign Ministry’s newly minted Department of International Information Security, which coordinates with European countries on cybersecurity.McKeigue also boasted to his supposed Russian handler about his work with state media employees at Ruptly, a streaming video platform based in Germany, which is funded by the Kremlin.The British academic was given screen captures from a database of sensitive personal details on activists and war crimes witnesses collected through interviews conducted on the ground in Syria by Ruptly staff. McKeigue passed the details on to “Ivan,” despite the apparent threat to these people.After a while, McKeigue decided that his contact at Ruptly was insufficiently loyal to the cause and asked “Ivan” to investigate him.Nerma Jelacic, the CIJA’s director of external relations and a member of the sting op, told The Daily Beast that the disclosure that Russian diplomats and state-run media outlets were working with the Working Group helped to explain why this otherwise obscure collection of academics had managed to make headlines around the world. “These networks would have remained nothing more than a bunch of marginalized ideologues and conspiracists,” Jelacic said.She added, “Russia’s disinformation campaigns about Syria would be far less effective if they had to rely solely on statements from the Russian foreign and ministries rather than on what Westerner academics and self-described ‘whistleblowers’ have said.”McKeigue’s correspondence with “Ivan” has been passed to British authorities. The University of Edinburgh continues to insist his commentary on Syria has been undertaken as a private citizen and not on behalf of the institution; it affirms McKeigue’s right to free expression.Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International U.K. Campaigns Manager, told The Daily Beast: “Syrian victims and their families who have endured many horrors [deserve justice]. These individuals, quite disgracefully, are trying to deny Syrians these rights. They won’t succeed.”This piece is part of a joint investigation between The Daily Beast and Newlines magazine who have a more detailed analysis here.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Jimmy Carter's running mate lost heavily to Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election.
- The Independent
‘Antron suffered from chronic asthma and if he hadn’t had it, I truly believe he would’ve made it to the NBA’
The U.S. economy is going to temporarily see "a little higher" inflation this year as the recovery strengthens and supply constraints push up prices in some sectors, but the Federal Reserve is committed to limiting any overshoot, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in an April 8 letter to Senator Rick Scott. "We do not seek inflation that substantially exceeds 2 percent, nor do we seek inflation above 2 percent for a prolonged period," Powell said in a five-page response to a March 24 letter in which the Florida Republican raised concerns about rising inflation and the U.S. central bank's bond-buying program. Those modifiers - "substantially" exceeding 2% inflation or above that level for a "prolonged" period - help to more sharply define the upper bounds of the Fed's comfort zone as prices rise.
- The Independent
‘If the effect is deleterious to the ability of people of colour to participate in elections, then that is problematic and that is wrong,’ Abrams says
- Business Insider
Boris Johnson in lobbying scandal as leaked texts reveal he promised to 'fix' tax issue for James Dyson
Boris Johnson told James Dyson that "I am first lord of the Treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need."
- The Independent
Fox News host uses show to question validity of Derek Chauvin verdict, asking: ‘Can we trust the way this decision was made?’
- The Independent
‘Trauma and tragedy of George Floyd’s murder must never leave us,’ says senator
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Kamala Harris says verdict brings US a step closer to making equal justice under law a reality
- The Telegraph
Boris Johnson’s plans to hold White House-style press briefings have been abandoned, despite the Government spending £2.6million on a new Downing Street conference facility. In another major No 10 upheaval, it was confirmed on Tuesday that the Prime Minister had decided to axe the daily televised press conferences. The No 9 briefing room, which has only recently been renovated, will now be used by the Prime Minister, ministers and officials to hold press conferences. Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s press secretary, will now become his spokesman for the COP26 United Nations climate summit, which is taking place in November. She will move across the road to work in No 9, where Mr Sharma and the Government’s COP26 team are based. On Tuesday night Ms Stratton, a former broadcast journalist who previously worked for Chancellor Rishi Sunak, said she was “delighted” to be taking on the new role, adding that it was a “unique opportunity to deliver a cleaner, greener world". “I’m looking forward to working with the Prime Minister and Alok Sharma [the UK’s COP26 President] to ensure it is a success,” she said. But others suggested Ms Stratton, pictured below, had effectively been sidelined.
The U.S. State Department has delivered COVID-19 vaccines to all of its eligible workforce deployed abroad as of Sunday and is expecting its entire workforce to have been fully vaccinated by mid-May, State Department officials said. Earlier this year, the department came under fire from its staff as it struggled to vaccinate thousands of diplomats stationed in 220 overseas locations, considered a key human resource in advancing America's national security interests. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his visit to Japan and South Korea last month, tried to reassure the embassy staff in virtual town halls that the department was working "as fast as it can" to get everyone vaccinated.
- WBAL - Baltimore Videos
More issues surround Johnson & Johnson as it struggles to get its COVID-19 vaccine back on track in the United States. Questions remain about the vaccine's connection to rare blood clots and questions remain about Emergent BioSolutions, the company making the shot in Baltimore. On Monday, Emergent BioSolutions confirmed it stopped making the J&J vaccine, also known as the Janssen vaccine, at its Baltimore plant at the request of the Food and Drug Administration on Friday.