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Investigators close in on JPMorgan hackers

The hackers targeted JPMorgan Chase last summer and gained access to information on 76 million individuals and 7 million small businesses.

CNET

The hackers who breached JPMorgan Chase's cyberdefenses to gain access to 83 million records may soon be caught.

Federal investigators are closing in on the hackers responsible for last summer's hack on the banking and investment firm and feel confident that indictments could be coming down soon, the New York Times reported Sunday, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the investigation. The investigators declined to say exactly when arrests could be made, but the Times says a case could be filed "in the coming months."

JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the US and the sixth-largest in the world, was targeted last summer by hackers, who were able to gain access to the contact information of 76 million households and 7 million small businesses. The information, according to JPMorgan Chase, was limited to names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and did not include account numbers, Social Security numbers or other sensitive data.

A few months after the breach, JPMorgan reported that it did not see any evidence of fraud or unauthorized transactions.

The JPMorgan hack was the just the latest in a string of attacks on major companies over the past few years. In December 2013, retail giant Target said that hackers stole credit card data for more than 110 million customers. Major hacks reported in 2014 and 2015 include those on department store Neiman Marcus, restaurant chain P.F. Chang's, crafts-supplies chain Michaels Stores, hardware chain Home Depot, office-supplies chain Staples and insurance provider Anthem.

One of the most notable breaches last year hit Sony Pictures. The hack saw the publication of private e-mails among Sony executives, as well as screenings of upcoming films. The hack is believed to have been politically motivated, due to the impending release of "The Interview," a comedy that featured an assassination plot on North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. The FBI has said that North Korea was behind the attack, but the country has denied any involvement.

Regardless, the common thread among most of the major data breaches over the last few years has been the lack of arrests.

What makes this case different, according to the Times' sources, is that the attack on JPMorgan was not as "sophisticated" as others, and it's believed that the hackers that have so far been identified live in areas where they can be extradited to the US. They are, one source told the Times, "gettable."

Apprehending suspects can be difficult. While the US was able to nab Albert Gonzalez, the alleged hacker of retailer TJ Maxx and other companies, many of the latest attacks have come from countries, like Russia and China, that do not have extradition treaties with the US. In those cases, US officials can file charges but have no way of actually making arrests.

The FBI declined to comment. JPMorgan Chase did not immediately respond to a request for comment.