Russian officials formally charged with computer hacking


For the first time in history, the U.S. has formally charged two Russian government officials in a cyber-hacking crime.

A grand jury indicted the officials along with two other Russian men on Wednesday for the 2014 Yahoo data breach conspiracy in which at least 500 million Yahoo accounts were hacked.

According to a Justice Department press release, the four were charged with “computer hacking, economic espionage and other criminal offenses in connection with a conspiracy, beginning in January 2014, to access Yahoo’s network and the contents of webmail accounts.”

The men reportedly exposed and stole the private information of their targets, which included journalists and other government officials.

Defendants Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev and Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin worked for Russia’s main security agency, known as the FSB, according to a report in The Hill. Sushchin also worked as the head of information security at a Russian investment bank.

Alexsey “Magg” Alexseyevich Belan and Karim Baratov were identified as the hackers. They reportedly “used unauthorized access to Yahoo’s systems to steal information from about at least 500 million Yahoo accounts and then used some of that stolen information to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies.”

The report showed that one defendant “searched accounts for credit or gift card numbers” and also “redirected Yahoo search traffic to make commissions on line sales and used 30 million accounts’ details for spam.”

“Cybercrime poses a significant threat to our nation’s security and prosperity, and this is one of the largest data breaches in history,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions after announcement of the indictments. “But thanks to the tireless efforts of U.S. prosecutors and investigators, as well as our Canadian partners, today we have identified four individuals, including two Russian FSB officers, responsible for unauthorized access to millions of users’ accounts. The United States will vigorously investigate and prosecute the people behind such attacks to the fullest extent of the law.”

“We are shrinking the world to ensure that cyber criminals think twice before targeting U.S. persons and interests,” stated FBI Director James Comey, adding that the agency is working diligently to uncover “the veil of anonymity surrounding cybercrimes.”

One of the defendants, Belan was listed as one of the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted criminals in November 2013. Reports say that he had been indicted twice before on hacking charges, but he escaped arrest in Europe and fled to Russia before he could be extradited.

The other defendant, Baratov is a dual Canadian and Kazakh citizen. He was arrested in Canada.

H/T: The Hill

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