Criminal Hackers Hand PR Services a Cyber Security Crisis

The latest cyber security breach is multi-million-dollar reputation killer for some big names in PR.

We’ve written before about criminal hacking and the creative ways in which stolen information can be both accessed and exploited.

Well, here’s a new one, and it’s a doozey: criminals have hacked into PR wire services and snatched news releases prior to their dissemination.

The releases contained information about mergers, acquisitions, product launches, and other news that proved highly lucrative before it was actual news. The criminals made more than $100 million in profits from illegal trades and sales of the inside information.

This international web of hackers have not only illustrated (yet again) how vulnerable our markets are to cyber threats, but they’ve also handed these wire services (yet another) example of how inadequate their security features are. This is has been going on since 2010.

The hacked wire services, are Marketwired, PR Newswire, and Business Wire. Their clients, whose news releases were scooped include some of America’s largest corporations: Boeing, Hewlett Packard, Ford Motor Company, Bank of America, and Home Depot.

All the services are cooperating with the investigation, but what are they doing to reassure their clients? There’s no way to downplay the magnitude of this crisis, but there are ways to restore client confidence, beginning with communication.

As a subscriber to PR Newswire, I received a personal notification regarding the breach—but not until 10 hours after the story broke in the media. Still, the company, so far, has done what it should:

  • Notify clients directly
  • Explain what happened
  • List steps taken to fix it
  • Give clients a way to register concerns
  • Follow through

As with just about any crisis, straightforward communication is key to building and maintaining trust.

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