Attributing Short Sellers to Increase Confidence in Corporate Governance

by | Apr 16, 2020 | Case Study, Reputation Defense

The Challenge

A pharmaceutical company (the Client) was facing a sophisticated “short and distort” stock market manipulation campaign, costing the company billions in market cap. A variety of virtual anonymous personas were publishing false information on the company’s leadership on social media and investing platforms – apparently in a coordinated fashion. These activities negatively influenced public perception about the company’s overall corporate governance and damaged the stock price thereby allowing those holding short positions to profit.

Why Nisos

While the Client had a firm understanding of the anonymous personas targeting it, it had no ability to attribute the true identity of the attackers. It required a partner who could leverage a full suite of external datasets and disinformation expertise to uncover technical indicators to provide the context it needed to take decisive action to disrupt the campaign.


We did not need internal telemetry to the Client’s network environment and relied on our external telemetry access and OSINT data sources.


We attributed the online personas to five specific individuals who were publishing negative content about the Client. These individuals all held short positions, or were affiliated with other investors who held short positions, in the stock. Further, analysis indicated these five individuals, via their hedge fund and pseudonymous social media accounts, appeared to maintain relationships and share goals with like-minded short sellers who all continuously spread the same disinformation about the Client’s alleged corporate governance mishaps. The apparent coordination behind this activity allowed the campaign to appear organic in nature.


As a result of our research, the Client was able to communicate to their key institutional investors and stakeholders that the disinformation campaign was indeed a coordinated effort designed to continuously and aggressively disseminate a misleading narrative, driving down the company stock price. By addressing the issue head on, the Client was able to reinforce confidence in corporate governance and secure continued investment from these key holders at a time that further capital flight may have represented an existential risk to the business.

About Nisos

Nisos is the Managed Intelligence™ company. Our services enable security, intelligence, and trust and safety teams to leverage a world-class intelligence capability tailored to their needs. We fuse robust data collection with a deep understanding of the adversarial mindset delivering smarter defense and more effective response against advanced cyber attacks, disinformation, and abuse of digital platforms.

For additional information, contact

Adversary Research
Discovering the methods, motives and identity of threat actors to disrupt attacks 
Reputation Defense
Technical guidance for countering disinformation and slanderous attacks 
Trust & Safety
Intelligence to secure business operations and defend against fraud, abuse and e-crime 
TPRM Exposure
Adversary-centric intelligence to address supplier, M&A and investment risks 
Outside Intel
Research for defending outside the firewall that leverages tier 3 intelligence programs 
Executive Shield
Assessment of threats to key personnel with attribution and PII takedown  
Adversary Insights℠ Retainer
Annual retainers for client-driven inquiries and rapid-response research 
Intelligence Team as a Service
Collaborative engagement providing robust intelligence and tier 3 cyber analysts  
Event-Driven Intel Investigations
Multidimensional security fact-finding that delivers insights into adversary behavior 
On Demand Threat Research
Proactive and preventative investigations that reveal threat actor context and risk correlations 
Investment Zero Touch Diligence℠
Project-based discovery to assess risk for investments, IPO, Mergers and Acquisitions 
TPRM Zero Touch Diligence℠
Subscription assessment of external network hygiene, key personnel, and non-traditional business risks