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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reuters Falls Victim to Fraud Ring

An electronic fraud scheme to steal and resell information produced by the Reuters news agency has been uncovered, an official from Russia's economic crime unit said.

Police are investigating employees of Kentavr Dealing Center who are suspected of breaking into the Reuters satellite information network and selling stolen data to dozens of clients, Mikhail Sukhodolsky, head of the unit's intellectual property department, said Thursday.

Local Reuters manager Michal Broniatowski put the company's losses at between several hundred thousand and several million dollars.

"They are very talented, intelligent guys, quite well-known in certain circles," Sukhodolsky said of the suspects. "They know computers like the Lord's Prayer."

Kentavr subscribed to the Reuters service Banki-1,000, designed especially for Russian financial markets, and soon stopped paying the bills, said Broniatowski, Reuters manager for the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The $1,000 program, aimed at banks and other financial institutions, provides quotes of stocks from the Russian markets, as well as ruble and foreign currency rates and general and economic news in Russian. The data is delivered through satellite, and special equipment is required to receive the information.

Like other clients, Kentavr was given access only to the satellite information pipeline and no passwords to confidential networks. When it stopped paying for information, Reuters cut it off and attempted to find the company's office in order to take its equipment back. But by that time Kentavr had disappeared, Broniatowski said.

Last August, a Reuters employee accidentally came across an Internet advertisement offering Reuters services for a third of the amount on its price list. The agency then turned to the police to find the thieves.

The Kentavr computer whizzes - one of them a former Reuters systems engineer - managed to manipulate the software so that it was still able to receive and decipher the satellite signal even though Reuters had cut them off. Then they resold the service at low prices on the Internet.

"They are very smart hackers, geniuses," Broniatowski said. "I feel sorry for them."

He said the equipment alone costs several thousand dollars, but it is unclear how much Reuters lost on the several dozen clients Kentavr stole from it.

Broniatowski said he was not aware of any other firms leeching off Reuters, but was quick to add that "if they are out there, they'll know that it's illegal and punishable."

"No such thing is going to happen to us in the future. Now we know that this software can be hacked, exactly how it can be hacked and how to protect ourselves," he added.