Two kinds of people scare today’s top business leaders: Activist investors and hackers. The activists are the easier to deal with. You know who they are, you can invite them over for a talk, and sometimes they even have good ideas. The hackers are much more dangerous, as this morning’s news illustrates.
The feds yesterday arrested nine people on charges of stealing unreleased announcements of mergers and acquisitions, and then trading in advance of the news, making a reported $100 million in illegal profits. How they did it would be kind of funny if it weren’t frightening: The traders in the U.S. would email hackers in Ukraine a list of companies on which they wanted information; the hackers would email back instructional videos much like a YouTube video on how to make fettuccine Alfredo except that they showed how to break into PR Newswire or Business Wire, two services that distribute corporate announcements. The traders got advance information on Bank of America, Clorox, Caterpillar, Honeywell, and many other firms.
That is, the arrested traders weren’t brilliant hackers. They just knew some brilliant hackers in a distant country, sometimes paying them a flat fee, sometimes splitting profits.
The larger trend that worries leaders is that hacking incidents are getting weirder. A few weeks ago, benign hackers showed how they could take over a Jeep and cause it to drive into a ditch. Yesterday, researchers from the University of San Diego showed how they could hack into a Corvette and disable its brakes. Those software bugs are being fixed, but how many undiscovered, potentially lethal bugs remain out there?
I’ve asked experts how companies can get control of this shifting, intangible threat. Jeff Moss, the legendary “white hat” hacker who founded the annual DefCon conference that just concluded in Las Vegas, thinks companies should hire creative good guys to try to break in. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even sent one of his cars to DefCon so hackers could demonstrate any vulnerabilities they could find – which they did. Tesla quickly sent out a software patch to fix one of the problems, so hackers could no longer shut the car down at low speeds. Technicolor CIO Ginny Davis told me that her company – which processes petabytes of data from movies in production every day – employs people whose only job is to try to break in.
I’ve asked CEOs how they sleep at night in a world of potentially catastrophic hacks from unknowable sources. They say they do it by reminding themselves they’ve got the best possible people working on the issue. But I get the feeling they still don’t sleep all that well.
What We’re Reading Today
Credit Suisse could agree to largest fine ever…
…levied against a private trading operator. Credit Suisse operates the largest U.S. based dark pool, a more private venue for trading shares than via the stock market. The fine could be in the “high tens of millions of dollars.” WSJ
Hillary Clinton hands over private emails
She has instructed her lawyers to give the Justice Department her private server and thumb drive that contain work related emails from her time as Secretary of State. Also yesterday, an inspector general told Congress that at least five emails from the server contained classified information. CNN
SEC arrests nine in hacking insider trading case
The rogue traders were paying overseas hackers to steal private corporate information, including news releases, which netted them over $100 million in profits. NYT
Birchbox loses a founder, CEO
Hayley Barna, a Birchbox co-founder who continued on in the company as co-CEO with Katia Beauchamp, no longer works in a day-to-day capacity. The move, however, wasn’t publicly announced by the subscription cosmetics company, which will soon look for a third round of funding. Fortune
Uber offices raided in Hong Kong
Five drivers were arrested on Tuesday for “illegal use of vehicles for hire,” police said. On a day when it was reported that Uber drives would make $5,500 more if they were considered full-time employees in the U.S., the arrests heighten questions over whether Uber will make the necessary strides in China. Reuters
GE unloads healthcare financial services to Capital One
The deal, worth $9 billion, continues GE’s effort to reduce GE Capital’s investments to below $100 billion by the end of the year, says GE Capital CEO Keith Sherin. The Street
China currency rides a second day of turmoil
In the morning, the People’s Bank of China devalued the yuan by 1.6%. By the end of the market day, though, the PBOC asked Chinese banks to sell dollars in an attempt to stem the fall of the currency. WSJ
Building a Better Leader
Is that employee wellness program mandatory?
Your employees might think so. Critics of wellness programs, however, say they can have a detrimental impact on health. U.S. News
23 years at one company taught this CEO one thing
Tear down those silos. Fortune
Employee productivity drops farther than experts realized
The increase in how much an employee produces in one hour of work has fallen to 1.3% average per year from 2007 to 2014, well below the historical average of 2.2% per year. MarketWatch
Marco Rubio has a unique form of campaigning
Following the GOP presidential primary debate, in which Rubio was praised for his performance, he has gone quiet in order to raise money. It’s all part of his plan. But his opponents won’t stick to his timeframe. NYT
Tough start for Rick Perry
His staffers are working without pay. The Republican presidential candidate raised only $1.1 million between April and June. CBS News
Jeb Bush sets his sights on Hillary Clinton
He’s targeting Clinton’s foreign policy record in an effort to link her time as Secretary of State to the rise of ISIS. NBC News
Unlikely ally for Donald Trump
Fellow presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said it was foolish for his fellow candidates to attack someone who’s drawing as many followers as Trump. NBC News
Up or Out
Citigroup has hired Simon Kempton, who previously headed international prime brokerage for Deutsche Bank, as its European head of prime finance. Financial Times
The Trump Hotel Collection hired Eric Danziger as its first CEO. WSJ
Days after leading fiber optic company JDSU split into two separate organizations, Tom Waechter has resigned as CEO of Viavi Solutions (one of the new entities formed in the split). Chairman Richard E. Belluzzo will serve as interim CEO. Yahoo Finance
Fortune Reads and Videos
Managing without a headquarters
Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme discusses how he manages a company that’s fully-digital. Fortune
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand calls out Carly Fiorina over paid leave
The New York congresswoman says the presidential candidate must be unaware of many Americans’ needs. Fortune
Zirtual walks back from the dead
On Monday it looked like the on-demand virtual assistant startup that grew too fast would shutter its doors. On Tuesday, everything changed. Fortune
Microsoft cloud guru throws a shot at Google
Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, calls Google a distant third in the cloud business. Fortune
Billionaire philanthropist and hedge fund manager George Soros turns 85 today. Biography
French president Francois Hollande turns 61. Biography
|Produced by Ryan Derousseau|