Cyber Gang Beats Global Banks Out of Billions-Phishing Catches Whales blog update courtesy of  David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times.

According to a just released investigation conducted by cyber security firm Kapersky Labs, a modern day gang of cybercriminals using seemingly simple email-based phishing techniques has beaten global banks, including the world’s biggest brokerdealers, out of at least $1billion during the past year alone.

When notorious 20th century gentleman bank robber Willie Sutton was asked by a news journalist (not Brian Williams!) why he robbed banks, the answer Sutton purportedly was: “Because that’s where the money is..” Though Sutton later disputed making that comment,  robbing banks in the 21st Century no longer requires wearing a ski mask and passing a teller a note that says : “This is a stick-up, give me all of your money.” Instead, according to the last series of bank heists, the weapon of choice starts with a phishing strategy that includes sending an email to a targeted bank employee that purportedly came from a sender known to the recipient, and includes an invisible piece of bait (commonly referred to as ‘malware’) embedded within the email message. That malware, which is chock full of computer code that enables access to critical systems ultimately lodges into the bank’s belly, enabling the ‘phisher’ to move tens of millions of dollars out of the bank and into the nets of phisher accounts in other banks.

In a report to be published on Monday, and provided in advance to The New York Times, Kaspersky Lab says that the scope of this attack on more than 100 banks and other financial institutions in 30 nations could make it one of the largest bank thefts ever — and one conducted without the usual signs of robbery.

The Moscow-based firm says that because of nondisclosure agreements with the banks that were hit, it cannot name them. Officials at the White House and the F.B.I. have been briefed on the findings, but say that it will take time to confirm them and assess the losses.

Kaspersky Lab says it has seen evidence of $300 million in theft through clients, and believes the total could be triple that. But that projection is impossible to verify because the thefts were limited to $10 million a transaction, though some banks were hit several times. In many cases the hauls were more modest, presumably to avoid setting off alarms.

The majority of the targets were in Russia, but many were in Japan, the United States and Europe.

No bank has come forward acknowledging the theft, a common problem that President Obama alluded to on Fridaywhen he attended the first White House summit meeting on cybersecurity and consumer protection at Stanford University. He urged passage of a law that would require public disclosure of any breach that compromised personal or financial information.

But the industry consortium that alerts banks to malicious activity, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, said in a statement that “our members are aware of this activity. We have disseminated intelligence on this attack to the members,” and that “some briefings were also provided by law enforcement entities.”

The American Bankers Association declined to comment, and an executive there, Douglas Johnson, said the group would let the financial services center’s statement serve as the only comment. Investigators at Interpol said their digital crimes specialists in Singapore were coordinating an investigation with law enforcement in affected countries. In the Netherlands, the Dutch High Tech Crime Unit, a division of the Dutch National Police that investigates some of the world’s most advanced financial cybercrime, has also been briefed.

The silence around the investigation appears motivated in part by the reluctance of banks to concede that their systems were so easily penetrated, and in part by the fact that the attacks appear to be continuing.

The managing director of the Kaspersky North America office in Boston, Chris Doggett, argued that the “Carbanak cybergang,” named for the malware it deployed, represents an increase in the sophistication of cyberattacks on financial firms.

“This is likely the most sophisticated attack the world has seen to date in terms of the tactics and methods that cybercriminals have used to remain covert,” Mr. Doggett said.

For the full story, please visit the NY Times by click here


PE Firms Raiding BrokerDealers in Battle for Young Bankers

young blog update courtesy of the New York Times Deal Book section.

Young bankers fresh out of college are in high demand for private equity firms. Firms what the brightest and best that show great tenacity and enthusiasm for Wall Street. Firms are so aggressive about finding the best candidates that recruiters are interviewing potential employees up to 18 months before the start of the actual job.

They are only in their early to mid-20s, but some young bankers on Wall Street are the most sought-after financiers around, with lucrative pay packages dangling before them.

Junior investment bankers who graduated from college only last year are being madly courted by private equity firms like Apollo Global Management, the Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and theCarlyle Group in a scramble that kicked off last weekend. After back-to-back interviews, many are now fielding offers for jobs that won’t start until the summer of 2016.

This process has become an annual rite by private equity firms, which raise money from investors (like pension funds) to buy entire companies. But it has grown more frenzied since the financial crisis, and it started this year weeks earlier than many in the industry had expected. Fearful of missing the best talent being developed at investment banks, the giants of private equity have turned Wall Street’s white-collar entry-level workers into a hot commodity.

Private-equity firms are pushing earlier than ever to lure Wall Street investment banks’ most promising talent.

“It’s as if these were star athletes,” said Adam Zoia, chief executive of the recruiting firm Glocap Search, who helps private equity firms hire young workers. “The irony is they are professionals six, seven months out of undergrad. It’s hard to imagine you can tell if someone’s a star or not.”

For the young bankers, who are known as analysts, the recruiting race is an important step on a journey to becoming a Wall Street tycoon who can command a seven-figure (or more) pay package. These workers, graduates of elite colleges, often hope to spend two years at investment banks, learning the basics of corporate finance, before leaving for private equity firms, where they can use those skills to make investments. That career path makes them prime candidates for an elite business school, or something even more financially rewarding.

Even though these youthful analysts are starting at big Wall Street firms, the sector’s reputation has lost some of its sheen since the financial crisis. At the same time, Silicon Valley is luring away talent.

But private equity firms can offer higher pay to young bankers. A private equity associate — one who is just three years out of college — can earn as much as $300,000 a year, including salary and bonus. That is roughly double what a second-year banker might earn at Goldman Sachs. “Private equity is the preferable place to be in terms of compensation,” said Jeff P. Visithpanich, a managing director at the compensation consulting firm Johnson Associates.

While data is hard to come by, a December report from Vettery, a start-up recruiting firm, said that private equity was the single most popular destination for Wall Street’s junior workers. Roughly 36 percent of junior bankers with two-year contracts in 2012 have now joined private equity firms, compared with 27.5 percent who stayed in the same division at their bank, Vettery said.

It may seem surprising that these untested financiers are being so heavily courted when the overall unemployment rate of workers between the ages of 20 and 24 in January was more than twice as high as the rate for those 25 and older.

But the process of hiring these workers has grown only more frenzied since the crisis, as financial firms increasingly believe they must work harder to attract ambitious graduates. The banks, from which these workers are being poached, are raising salaries or offering additional days off in an effort to retain them.

To read the complete article from the New York Times, click here.


BrokerDealers Crow About Crowdfunding blog update courtesy of extract from the New York Times.

For most start-up businesses, money to finance the business is a key issue, in recent years, start-up businesses have been turning to crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is raising money contributions from a large number of people, typically through the use of the Internet. Some of the  more popular crowdfunding sites include GoFundMe and Kickstarter.

These kind of small businesses are the ones President Obama wanted to help in 2012 when he signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, better known as the JOBS Act. Part of the law, Title III, was intended to allow small businesses seeking capital to crowdfund, or raise money from virtually anyone, by selling stock and other securities over the Internet. “Start-ups and small business will now have access to a big, new pool of potential investors,” Mr. Obama said at the time. “For the first time, ordinary Americans will be able to go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in.”

crowd-fundingCongress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to finalize the rules by December 2012, but the agency has yet to do so. As it reviews Title III of the JOBS Act, a debate has raged. Supporters say crowdfunding is an innovative way to finance new ideas. Others say the high risk associated with backing early-stage businesses is inappropriate for ordinary investors.

Only accredited investors — those with annual income of more than $200,000 or $1 million in net worth not including their primary residence — are permitted to participate in crowdfunding deals. Under the proposed rules, which the S.E.C. introduced in October 2013, businesses could raise up to $1 million in a 12-month period without registering the offering with the agency.

“The goal is to democratize and improve finance,” said Representative Patrick T. McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, who worked on the House crowdfunding bill that was incorporated into the JOBS Act.

In writing its rules, the S.E.C. adopted strict requirements intended to minimize fraud and protect investors. Individuals who are not accredited investors, for instance, would face limits on how much they could invest. Businesses would be required to go through a registered broker or a new type of registered platform called a funding portal for their offerings. Businesses also would be required to submit audited financial statements. The rules are still under review and may change.

While the rules are still under review having a brokerdealer in your corner to help find smart investments to make whether it is in a small company or large corporation.

For the full story from the New York Times click here