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Anonymous Hackers Turned Stock Analysts Are Targeting US, Chinese Corporations (softpedia.com) 111

An anonymous reader writes: A smaller group of Anonymous, called Anonymous Analytics, reached the conclusion that DDoSing is stupid and never fixes anything, so they decided to use their hacking skills and stock market knowledge to make a difference in another way. For the past years, the group has been compiling market reports on U.S. and Chinese companies and publishing their results. Their reports have been noticed by the stock market, who recently started to react to their findings. The most obvious case was of Chinese lottery machine maker REXLot. The hackers discovered that REXLot inflated its revenue and the amount of cash on its balance sheet, based on the amount of interest earned. "The group published its findings on June 24, 2015, and REXLot stock price plummeted from 0.485 Hong Kong dollar per share to 0.12, before trading was suspended [for ten months]. REXLot rejoined the market on April 18, 2016, this year, but even after submitting a 53-page report, the company stock fell again by 50 percent," reports Softpedia. Anonymous Analytics then published two more reports on the company, urging the market to sell, and two days later, Reuters reported that REXLot did not have enough cash to make due bond payments, which meant the company had to sell assets to repay bonds. Other companies on which the group published market reports include Qihoo 360 and Western Union.
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Anonymous Hackers Turned Stock Analysts Are Targeting US, Chinese Corporations

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  • all growed up now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @09:21PM (#52192205)
    and following the money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by houstonbofh ( 602064 )
      And being more effective as a result.
    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      As long as they don't lie, go for it.

      • by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @11:49PM (#52192757)
        This is the inherent risk. Their ethical radars are somewhat wonky to say the least, how long before they use the tactic of releasing false information about a company they dislike simply to crash their share price or worse abuse it to make a small fortune themselves. If they stick to the truth fine, but I just don't see them not being tempted to abuse trust.
        • by vlad30 ( 44644 )
          May have already happened Shenguan Holdings had a rise in the share price after the released report said strong buy then has continued on a downward trend Not saying they did it deliberately just that anything they say will have an effect good or bad in the short term in the long term the truth will come out regardless.
          • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @05:38AM (#52193643)

            How is this different from any other analytics group ? Anybody whose opinion can influence stock prices have the exact same incentive risks. Hell you think no politician has ever said something about a law knowing it would drive down a stock price and knowing the law was never going to be passed - just so he could buy some cheap stock and sell it at a profit later when the stock recovered from the scare ?

            Hell - you think any CEO whose company is the target of a major lawsuit and knows they are likely to lose (which he will know before anybody else since he knows if they are really guilty or not) will fail to short the stock and make more than the company is fined for ? Then buy it back at a discount after the fine. Part of why companies tend not to give a fuck about things like health and safety regulations is because actually being sued or charged with violating them have a good chance of making the CEO richer than he was before, it's only the shareholders who lose out and since they can't really prove anything...

            So they may have an incentive to start a false rumor to cash in on - so does anybody else who is in a position where large traders pay attention to what they say. It's a serious problem but it is decidedly not unique to them.

            • The difference is if an analytics group make market predictions or announcements with the intention of taking market advantage of the reaction they will end up in a shit ton of trouble with the SEC. Same with a CEO, if he shorts a stock based on insider information he will go to jail. The SEC is not in the least bit lenient on these things
              • They are actually extremele lenient. Regardless of intentions thats the practical reality because insider trading is incredibly difficult to prove or even find enough evidence off to inestigate. If they appear non lenient its only because the only cases that ever happens are the most insanely egregious ones.
                Take the example I used. How do you prove the CEO knew they would lose ? If his lawyer says "nobody could predict the vagaries of a jury and he was just hedging his bets" how exactly can the SEC prove he

                • firstly hedging isn't exactly selling short. Hedging is protecting a position of stock you actually own (completely legal), basically it is insurance. selling short is an entirely different kettle of fish. I would imagine selling short would breach all sorts of laws around financial responsibilities of a CEO and if the SEC didn't get him every shareholder would have an open and shut case for civil damages.
                  • I said "hedging bets" not hedging shares. If you only short some of your stock then you can claim you shorted some in case the jury ruled against you but not all in case you they ruled in your favor. Its all but impossible to prove you are lying. Hedging a bet means betting on many possible outcomes to reduce risk. This is perfectly legal stockmarket behavior.
                    The problem with enforcing insider trading is that since we lack mindreading technology its incredibly difficult to prove what somebody knew.

                • Nah you gotta be Enron or Madoff before the SEC will even try.

                  And sometimes not even then. The SEC was warned about Madoff repeatedly. They did nothing, even though they had strong evidence of fraud. Madoff only got prosecuted because he reached the end of his rope and confessed.

                  Many people at the SEC either worked in the financial industry or hope to work in the financial industry. So aggressive prosecution isn't really on their priority list.

                  • Madoff ran a hedge fund, not a mutual fund. Hedge funds get the least oversight because the operators and investors want it that way.

                    _Every one_ of Madoff's investors knew he was a criminal, they just thought he was 'their criminal' and would ultimately take the insider trading hit for them. Had they know an investigation was ongoing, they would have worried about the loss of future earnings.

                    I downloaded the Madoff chump list. You never know when a list of dishonest, greedy investors will come in handy

                  • All the SEC COULD do was warn people. Madoff was not running a listed company, it was a private fund and he was rather smart in ensuring he wasn't actually trading on the market and hence the SEC had no authority over him. Basically he was simply running a big con, The SEC warned people it could not be legitimate as he simply wasn't engaged in the market to actually make the returns he was claiming but as it is out of the market they regulate and watch over they had no authority to do anything but warn.
        • how long before they use the tactic of releasing false information about a company they dislike simply to crash their share price or worse abuse it to make a small fortune themselves

          . You know, they can make a small fortune even by telling the truth. Just sell it short (or have a straw-man sell it short) before releasing the (accurate) news. Actually, I'd be astonished if they didn't...

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Why does that matter? If you're an investor, you should do your own due diligence. You shouldn't trust someone's press releases just because they made a press release. You shouldn't buy just because they say so, you shouldn't sell just because they say so. You should work out what the truth is yourself. And if you do, you'll make money from all the idiots who buy or sell because that's what they were told.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Or how long until they make a mistake, like that time they accused the wrong guy of being the Boston bomber...

          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            Ok, you need to be a bit careful here. The first thing to remember is that Anonymous isn't an organization, it's a name applied to a bunch of people who don't have any connection to each other.

            You should NEVER trust anything said by Anonymous. That's like trusting something posted by "Anonymous Coward", which is the same kind of entity. But likewise you should never automatically disbelieve it.

            Secondly, even the most highly regarded analytics groups make mistakes. Sorry, but they do. So Anonymous Analy

    • . . . and they made a fortune, by shorting the companies, before they released their reports.

      • . . . and they made a fortune, by shorting the companies, before they released their reports.

        Except not all the reports are hit pieces - they are also reporting companies as undervalued. Unfortunately, they seem to be wrong a lot. Check out, for instance, the report on Demand Media (DMD). Pretty much none of their predictions panned out. The stock price hasn't doubled, the company hasn't gone private, and it's still trading close to the same price as it was last year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 26, 2016 @09:23PM (#52192217)

    with perfect knowledge so the free market capitalists should be happy !

    • This one is right here!
      • Apparently hacking is self delusion, because Goldman Sacks has yet to be outed.
    • I'm"one guy who recognizes that free trading markets will always occur, underground or in the light of day. I'm glad to see this, assuming the reports are true and don't misrepresent the facts. (It's possible for something to be technically true, yet thoroughly misleading.)

      I'm also a career information security professional (hacker) and it's good to see people who relate to Anonymous doing something above-board and apparently quite productive, rather than causing damage.

      A belief that free markets work bett

    • No, it's not. Perfect knowledge is not a requirement for free markets, unless you ask a red who hates markets. It says more about your understanding of markets than anything else. Take econ 102 then get back to us.

  • it's about time that bad security finally start hurting companies in a real way. maybe now you'll see executives get serious about security.

    • Yeah but the IT budget will still be the first thing cut when it's time to save money
    • it's about time that bad security finally start hurting companies in a real way.

      This is not hurting companies. It is hurting crooked managers. The company belongs to the shareholders, and transparency helps shareholders. Sure, the stock price went down, but the stock price would have fallen even more if the reckoning had been delayed.

      • > It is hurting crooked managers.

        Who often have golden parachutes already set up.

      • But managers make the decision to hire security, not shareholders.

  • Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gueryjones ( 1531501 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @09:32PM (#52192263)
    CPA and former auditor here. I'd be shocked if a publicly traded company was actually able to materially misstate cash. It's one of the easiest balance sheet items to audit, and publicly traded companies are required to be audited. You literally pull the bank statements as of the end of the year. The cash is either there or it isn't. There are a few reconciling items such as deposits in transit or checks that haven't cleared, but it's typically not a lot. I haven't read Anonymous' report, but it doesn't pass the smell test.
    • Maybe things aren't quite so strict in China, if you know the right auditors...
      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gueryjones ( 1531501 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @09:42PM (#52192313)
        Just read the report, and there's no mention of cash anywhere. They do talk about revenue as the summary and articles state, but not the cash. The articles mention that the company did not have enough cash on hand to cover debt payments, but that's a different situation compared to not having the cash they claim on the balance sheet. Both could be true simultaneously, but Anonymous has not made any statement I can see regarding cash. Revenue is another story, and is much easier to misstate if your auditors are not on their toes.
        • They probably didn't have enough cash to pay off all of their bonds. Very few companies do. Financing the company involves rolling over debt of various maturities. But if somebody is out there accusing you of misstating your financial position and your stock is in the dumps, you will have difficulty accessing to the bond market. This is somewhat of a self-fulfilling property which is part of the reason that short and distort isn't allowed.
      • Maybe things aren't quite so strict in China, if you know the right auditors...

        Auditing is often corrupt in China, but these shares were traded in Hong Kong, which has much stricter rules than the mainland.

      • If you know the right auditors, things aren't quite so strict anywhere...
      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Or when the auditers are there, so is the cash. 3 hour short term loan. That way the auditer sees the money and is happy. When they come van come from higher up.

        I used to work in a hotel many years ago where we knew a day before that an unannounced inspection would take place. The one time they rally came unannounced, they asked me to bring coffee (I was a waiter) and he told me who they were.

        That gave us enough time to send home the illegals who were working in the kitchen and in the house. If we could do

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          They could have just left someone in the parking lot to look for exactly that sort of thing. That wasn't real auditing which is already something that has been stated as a problem.
    • Travel much? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ... I'd be shocked if a publicly traded company was actually able to materially misstate cash ...

      I guess you haven't have any exposure to 3rd world stock markets

      I have the pleasure of constantly receiving IPO proposals from 3rd world companies, in which, the statements printed on the IPO proposals don't even add up!

      And yet, every single of those 'don't add up' IPO got their 'go ahead' and they are now listed in various 3rd world country stock exchanges

      Suffice to say their performance sux, and their accounting sux even more

      • Are you sure those are actually IPO proposals, not just phishing attacks poorly disguised as IPO proposals?

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          Are you sure those are actually IPO proposals, not just phishing attacks poorly disguised as IPO proposals?

          The original poster already stated his suspicion that these were genuine IPO phishing attacks. Stock scammers have been trolling for suckers centuries before electronic banking ever existed.

    • by EEPROMS ( 889169 )
      [cough] so you are saying auditors in the USA have never tweaked a companies reports to make them look good, I think someone needs a history lesson.
      • I didn't say that. Read more carefully and don't insert your preconceived notions. I've seen plenty and I know what happens out there. I also know what typically doesn't happen.
    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      I guess you've never heard of this candle. I can't imagine it is isolated:
      http://www.accounting-degree.o... [accounting-degree.org]

      In addition the good old CDO/CDS crash thing. And running at cash reserves at legally allowable but recklessly imprudent levels by financial institutions but finding creative ways to gloss them over.

      • I never said it wasn't possible. I said it was unlikely.

        Cash reserves are a completely different subject. Don't conflate the two.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I haven't read Anonymous' report, but it doesn't pass the smell test.

      Your comment might have meant something if you did read it first. As it is, your post doesn't pass the smell test at all. It's nothing but an attempt to discredit, in other words propaganda. Or is it typical for a CPA/auditor to comment on things they haven't seen? What, is throwing that out supposed to make us believe whatever you say at face value?

    • by Cramer ( 69040 )

      You mean they're required to pay someone to certify their cooked books. It happens all. the. time. Companies rarely get punished for it, and auditors even rarer still.

    • They might have used insider knowledge or just some good guessing on their analysis (their Western Union one makes sense to me). But, my best guess based on quick research into online companies is that I traced the probable owners of this site to a Malaysian company called "Virtus Offshore Investment Company". They ran some HYIPs a few years ago.

      It also seems to be tied to Webhosting companies Shinjiru.com and Advanced Hosting Technology both of Malaysia.

      I got a Venn diagram of this that looks like a damn

    • CPA and former auditor here. I'd be shocked if a publicly traded company was actually able to materially misstate cash. It's one of the easiest balance sheet items to audit, and publicly traded companies are required to be audited. You literally pull the bank statements as of the end of the year. The cash is either there or it isn't. There are a few reconciling items such as deposits in transit or checks that haven't cleared, but it's typically not a lot. I haven't read Anonymous' report, but it doesn't pass the smell test.

      Does it have to?

      What matters to the market is what the market thinks others in the market will do, which often has nothing to do with reality.

    • But as a CPA and auditor, I'm sure you know just how many tricks can be used to hide losses, fake gains, and obfuscate the reports to mask it all. It wasn't that long ago that we all discovered that certain financial institutions were very good at sneaking things past the SEC and analysts/auditors. Looks like these folks may have stumbled into realizing a talent for forensic accounting through systems analysis. Take a look at their work - who knows, you might want to hire them.
    • I guess you didn't read that story on Slashdot from a few years ago about an HP acquisition. One of the successors as CEO to Carly Fiorina insisted that HP buy out some smaller company that had some niche product they wanted to sell. HP rushed through their due diligence process as the CEO insisted that the buyout happen immediately. A little before they got bought out, some dude, some average joe guy who was an investor, took a look at the company's reports and wrote an article saying how there was simp
    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      I seem to recall a firm of auditors called something Young that materially misrepresented their clients. And got caught, but how often does that happen.

      And the point is I have no way of knowing how often that happens. And I doubt that you do either, even if as an auditor and a CPA. The people who want to hire a shady auditor won't hire someone unless they already have a pretty good idea that their ethics are flexible.

  • Except for Demand Media.

    I wonder if the people who run this have money in Demand Media?

  • Anonymous Analytics is doing the one thing that stock analysis don't do!
    • analysts do.

      I really doubt this is a "branch" of anonymous.

      • I really doubt this is a "branch" of anonymous.

        I have those doubts whenever the FBI arrests someone of Middle Eastern ethnicity for being a "branch" of Al-Qaeda.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        Anonymous is just some people you can't identify. So these are certainly currently a branch of Anonymous. That they may not have been before they started publishing this material is irrelevant. It's not a groups with a central management and membership cards.

    • by Mikeman ( 30246 )

      A lot of people make good money by investigating companies and shorting the stock. Check out Muddy Waters or Greenlight Capital, headed by David Einhorn. Einhorn even wrote a book about one particular company he shorted. Read, "Fooling Some of the People All of the Time."

      • Einhorn is a man!?!?
      • A lot of people make good money by investigating companies and shorting the stock.

        Those people do. Stock analysts who work for Wall Street don't always call a pig with lipstick for what it is, especially if their company they work for has business with that pig with lipstick.

        Einhorn even wrote a book about one particular company he shorted. Read, "Fooling Some of the People All of the Time."

        Got it on my nightstand, haven't read it yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The yakuza have been employing similar tactics for decades. They wouldnt like people muscling on their turf.

  • Anonymous is finally hitting corporations where it hurts: in the wallet.
  • Short selling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @10:21AM (#52194765) Homepage

    Years ago, I developed a system to analyze stock option prices in real time for the purpose of automated trading. The algorithm was designed to detect overbought and oversold options, and trade ahead of the inevitable market correction.

    Although the system worked, it occasionally lost scary amounts of (simulated) money. It seems that some people traded high volumes against the market, buying into options that were already overbought, selling even when the option was oversold. It seemed as if these traders knew something that everyone else didn't. Sure enough, the company would report something surprising, and the market would move in favor of the people who traded ahead of the news.

    Ultimately, I abandoned the notition of automated options trading, but not before discovering how well the system could detect insider trading. The options market is subject to all sorts of shenanigans, but it's a pretty good advance indicator of the underlying stock. The more insider trading a company has, the better the algorithm works.

    If these Anonymous people are conducting research and detecting public reporting anomalies, the path of maximum profit is to short sell the stock, knowing that the price will fall when the truth finally emerges. Using this method, you instruct your broker to " short sell" 1000 shares of XYZ Corp. The broker "borrows" the shares from someone else's account and sells them. You get the cash and the obligation to return the shares (cover the position) at a some future time. If all goes well, you can keep the position open as long as you like, wait for the stock to fall, and then cover (buy back and return) the borrowed shares at a lower price.

    Looks like the hackers found a few cash cows. Good for them!

    • by epseps ( 39675 )

      I did something similar.

      When I would "short" a company I would write it down, and then the price it was and what I would short it at.

      I made a ton of fake money. So then I tried real time and picked a short with a call day and if I invested $100k Fake Money in the shorts and on call day I would see how much I made or how much I owed. In the first exercise with no time limit but just selling myt shorts when it hit the target I think I made something like $220k of Fake Money. When I did a more realistic exp

  • "Anonymous Members Arrested By SEC For Insider Trading In Advance Of Negative Reports"

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