IT security and control firm Sophos has welcomed news that US
authorities have sentenced an Indian man to two years in jail for
his part in an international fraud ring.
According to reports, 35-year-old Thirugnanam Ramanathan, a
native of India and legal resident of Malaysia, and his
accomplices, hacked into the internet accounts of American brokers,
sold the victims' holdings and bought shares in lightly-traded
stocks pumping up their price. The gang had previously purchased
the same stocks from their own brokerage accounts, and after they
had manipulated the stock price sufficiently, they swiftly dumped
their own holdings for a profit.
"This gang didn't use the old trick of pumping up the price of a
dormant stock with spam messages, encouraging people to buy shares
in a stock whose price was going to be manipulated. Instead they
cut out the middle man - doing the purchasing of the stock through
their victims' own compromised accounts," said Graham Cluley, senior
technology consultant at Sophos. "A heist like this was nothing
less than audacious - and, if successful, could have netted the
criminals a fortune."
The investigation also revealed that the hackers had used
internet service providers located in Bangkok, Thailand and
Chennai, India to break into the accounts. Sophos experts note that
cases like this demonstrate the international nature of cybercrime
today - where the criminals can be based on the other side of the
world, far away from their victims.
Two other defendants, Jaisankar Marimuthu and Chockalingam
Ramanathan (a resident of Chennai), have also been indicted.
Marimuthu is currently detained in a Hong Kong prison awaiting
extradition following his conviction on similar offences related to
the Hong Kong stock market. Chockalingam Ramanathan remains at
Sophos recommends that all computer users, be they a large firm
or an individual investor, take responsibility for properly
securing their computer systems to prevent hackers like this making
a quick profit.