32MB of code that’s worth billions is somewhere on the web

In what appears to be a very contemporary story of industrial espionage, we discover that 32MB of computer code could be the key to the success of one of the most powerful financial organisations on the face of the planet – and that someone may well have copied and uploaded it  for purposes unknown. [via SlashDot]

While most in the US were celebrating the 4th of July, a Russian immigrant living in New Jersey was being held on federal charges of stealing top-secret computer trading codes from a major New York-based financial institution—that sources say is none other than Goldman Sachs.

The allegations, if true, are big news because the codes the accused man, Sergey Aleynikov, tried to steal is the secret code to unlocking Goldman’s automated stocks and commodities trading businesses. Federal authorities allege the computer codes and related-trading files that Aleynikov uploaded to a German-based website help this major “financial institution” generate millions of dollars in profits each year.

The platform is one of the things that apparently gives Goldman a leg-up over the competition when it comes to rapid-fire trading of stocks and commodities. Federal authorities say the platform quickly processes rapid developments in the markets and uses top secret mathematical formulas to allow the firm to make highly-profitable automated trades.

This is somewhat of a double bind for Goldman Sachs, as prosecuting the alleged theft will require them to reveal a certain amount of their business secrets at a time when people aren’t best disposed toward Wall Street profiteering. It also sheds a less than flattering light on the FBI’s investigative priorities:

What is probably most notable, in less than a month since Sergey’s departure from [Goldman?], the FBI was summoned to task and the alleged saboteur was arrested and promptly gagged: if anyone is amazed by the unprecedented speed of this investigative process, you are not alone. If only the FBI were to tackle cases of national security and loss of life with the same speed and precision as they confront presumed high-frequency program trading industrial espionage cases… especially those that allegedly involve Goldman Sachs.

I think this is going to be one of those stories that will grow with the telling, and Goldman Sachs are going to come out looking bad whether they win or lose the case. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people, AMIRITE?

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