Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Finance | By Laverne Griffith

Russian security officers being charged in Yahoo security breach

Russian security officers being charged in Yahoo security breach

The fourth suspect, a third-party hacker named Karim Baratov, was already caught in Canada. Also targeted were employees of private sector banking and investment firms in Switzerland, Russia and the United States, as well as an American airline and a French transportation company.

The four are accused of computer hacking, economic espionage and other conspiracy charges.

The Guardian says the news comes amid "intense political controversy over Russian interference in the USA election", which included a data breach of the Democratic National Committee. But the move reflects the US government's increasing desire to hold foreign governments accountable for malicious acts in cyberspace. Prosecutors said they received no response to their requests to the Russian government to turn over Belan to United States authorities.

The 22-year old Ancaster man arrested in a Yahoo hacking case involving Russian spies, is expected to return to court in Hamilton tomorrow afternoon.

A separate, larger breach of 1 billion accounts occurred in 2013 but was only disclosed by the company three months ago. Officials have not determined whether there is a link between the two.

The indictment offers a lot of new information about the hack into Yahoo in 2014 that affected some half a billion accounts.

The combination of thefts led to Verizon (vzn) negotiating a reduced price for its pending acquisition of Yahoo.

"During the conspiracy, the FSB officers facilitated Belan's other criminal activities, by providing him with sensitive FSB law enforcement and intelligence information that would have helped him avoid detection by USA and other law enforcement agencies outside Russian Federation, including information regarding FSB investigations of computer hacking and FSB techniques for identifying criminal hackers", the Justice Department charged in its statement about the indictments. Belan and Baratov were paid hackers directed by the FSB to break into the accounts, prosecutors said. He quickly repaid his handlers with access to Yahoo's computer network; by early 2014 he'd gotten them inside Yahoo's system, and from there into the internal control center for Yahoo email accounts, the tool the company used to administer changes to accounts, like new passwords.

The FSB officers also allowed the criminal hackers to use the email cache for the officers' and the hackers' financial gain, through spamming and other operations, officials said.

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Among those named in the indictment, filed February 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, are FSB officer Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33; FSB officer Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43; Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, 29; and Karim Baratov, 22. He has been charged twice previously for cyberattacks of technology companies. Interpol had placed a "Red Notice" on Belan, requesting that member nations, including Russian Federation, arrest and extradite him.

This wanted poster provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, a Russian national. He would mount spear-phishing attacks, using fake emails to compel targets to provide sensitive information. In exchange for protection, Humpty Dumpty handed the FSB compromising material from hacked email accounts.

"I believe (U.S. President) Donald Trump is using this to make it appear as if he is going after Russian hackers", he said.

"This has been a long grind for several years to get to this point", Bennett said of the unsealed indictments.

In 2011, Dokuchaev was identified by the pseudonym "Forb" in the Russian-language magazine Hacker. Russian media have reported that Dokuchaev and his superior were accused of passing sensitive information to the Central Intelligence Agency. The FSB recruited him in part by giving him information that helped him avoid detection by law enforcement, according to the indictment. Instead, "they turned against that type of work". "We are deeply grateful to the FBI for investigating these crimes and the DOJ for bringing charges against those responsible", said Chris Madsen, assistant general counsel and head of Global Law Enforcement, Security & Safety at Yahoo.

Justice Department attorneys called this a highly complex, long-term investigation that relied heavily on cooperation between the federal government and the private sector, especially Yahoo and Google.

"Cyber-crime poses a significant threat to our nation's security and prosperity, and this is one of the largest data breaches in history", Sessions said. The cyberspying charges, the first ever brought against Russian security operatives, are largely symbolic, officials conceded. That's because no one expects the Kremlin to play along with the US indictment.

In response to Russian election hacking, former President Barack Obama kicked out 35 Russian officials in December as a way to sanction the Russian intelligence service and its top officials.

US intelligence authorities have concluded that Russian intelligence agencies were behind hacking efforts of Democratic email accounts in last year's election.

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