Three men identified Tuesday as the hackers behind the 2014 cyberattack against JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other financial giants orchestrated a bank breach so "breathtaking" it was like "securities fraud on cyber steroids," prosecutors said.
American citizen Joshua Samuel Aaron and Israelis Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein were charged in a 23-count indictment with crimes including computer hacking, securities fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, illegal Internet gambling and conspiring to commit money laundering.
The indictment paints a picture of a multinational criminal enterprise built in part on data acquired through major breaches at a dozen financial companies.
"By any measure, the data breaches at these firms were breathtaking in scope and in size" and signal a "brave new world of hacking for profit," Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference in Manhattan.
"In a way, it was securities fraud on cyber steroids," he added.
Shalon and others used data stolen in breaches to contact unwitting people and push them to buy stocks in order to manipulate their prices, according to the indictment. Asked by an alleged co-conspirator whether buying stocks was "popular in America," Shalon said, according to the indictment, "It's like drinking freaking vodka in Russia."
E*Trade Financial Corp, TD Ameritrade Holding Corp and News Corp's Dow Jones, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, said they were also targeted by the defendants in the case. Fidelity Investments and Scotttrade were also targets, sources told Reuters.
"It is hacking in support of a diversified criminal conglomerate," Bharara said of the operation. "In short, it is hacking as a business model."
Shalon, 31, and Orenstein, 40, both Israeli nationals, were arrested in July. Aaron, the 31-year-old U.S. citizen who has lived in Moscow and Tel Aviv, remains at large, authorities said.
The hacking of JPMorgan's computers compromised information in 83 million household and small business accounts, making it one of the largest such breaches in history. The breaches affected as many as 100 million individuals and a dozen businesses, prosecutors said.
A separate indictment alleged various fraud and conspiracy charges against Anthony Murgio, a Florida man previously accused of operating an unlicensed bitcoin exchange service, and who was also linked to the JPMorgan breach.
Lawyers for the defendants were not immediately available for comment.