Security Experts:

Intel's Early Earnings Release Triggered by Hack

U.S. chip-making giant Intel Corp. has acknowledged a website hack and premature data disclosure forced the early release of its earnings report for the fourth quarter of 2020.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company had planned on making the earnings announcement after markets closed on Thursday, but discovered the website breach and the external disclosure of an infographic with sensitive financial information.

The discovery led to a decision by Intel to release the financial results six minutes before the market closed.

Intel CFO George Davis told the Financial Times that an infographic was leaked and the company believed hackers obtained it from its PR newsroom website. Intel is investigating the incident, but currently it does not believe the file was accidentally leaked.

Intel’s Q4 earnings exceeded expectations, which led to shares closing up nearly 7% on Thursday, but they fell back down on Friday following news of the possible hack.

“The negative impact on Intel’s finances after a hacker gained early access to earnings information from its website is, unfortunately, a sign of why data security has become a boardroom issue,” Max Vetter, chief cyber officer at cybersecurity skills platform Immersive Labs, said via email. “This is a prime example of an attack that affects the entire organization. While tech infrastructure may suffer at first, a crisis like this quickly evolves into a reputational, financial, legal and customer issue.”

Vetter added, “In practical terms, this means ensuring front-line teams are alert, incident response plans are up to date and organizational processes are primed. The ones who will respond best are the teams that have been drilling for such events far in advance to ensure that, if the worst does happen, they have the muscle memory to respond quickly and the agility to react when the unexpected hits.”

Hacking into newswire services can be very lucrative for cybercriminals and fraudsters. An operation disclosed in 2015 by U.S. authorities helped a group make more than $100 million after obtaining non-public earnings information from hacked newswires.

News that Intel may have been hacked comes just months after the company launched an investigation into a leak of source code and developer resources apparently originating from its Resource and Design Center.

Related: SEC Settles With Two Traders Charged in EDGAR Hacking Case

Related: AMD Confirms Hacker Stole Information on Graphics Products

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.