US Charges Russian Hackers for Attacks on Yahoo

Posted March 18, 2017

Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., Yahoo was already facing a proposed $50-million class action on behalf of Canadians whose personal information may have been stolen.

The US Justice Department plans to indict four people in connection with the hacking attacks against Yahoo that compromised more than 1 billion user accounts, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. President Trump himself has been a vocal critic of the Bay Area tech scene, calling for heightened pressure on tech firms to comply with government investigations and build back doors to allow agents to crack into personal devices protected by passwords.

In a scheme that prosecutors say blended intelligence gathering with old-fashioned financial greed, the four men targeted the email accounts of Russian and US government officials, Russian journalists and employees of financial services and other private businesses, USA officials said.

He was put to work by Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, on an ambitious project: to breach Yahoo and steal account information from hundreds of millions of users. "We would hope they respect our criminal justice system, and respect these charges and what they need to do", Head of National Security at the U.S. Justice Department Mary McCord said. They likened the move to indictments filed in 2014 against five Chinese military officers who were accused of hacking and stealing information from US companies to help the Chinese government and businesses.

After the Chinese military hackers were indicted, officials said their activity seemed to dwindle. "Such situations are used for marginalizing Russia's image in the United States and the world", the MP said.

Belan, 29, has been indicted twice in US cases involving the hacking of e-commerce companies, and is listed as one of the FBI's "Cyber Most Wanted criminals".

While the UDB's contents did not necessarily give everything required to access individual user accounts, it did give Belan and the two FSB agents information that could be used to locate and target specific accounts of interest. Belan and Baratov were paid hackers directed by the FSB to break into the accounts, prosecutors said.

Russian national and USA resident Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, also known as "Magg", 29, has also been indicted.

Dokuchaev was arrested in December in Moscow on treason charges, after he was accused of passing state secrets to the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Ministry of Transportation documents show that Baratov has, at various times in the past five years, affixed his "Mr Karim" vanity license plate to an Aston Martin, a Porsche, an Audi, a Lamborghini, a Mercedes Benz and three BMWs.

The FSB is yet to comment on the matter.

This database was later used for credential forging and cookie minting, which allowed the suspects to access the contents of almost 6,500 accounts without even having to provide usernames and passwords. The Internet pioneer, which is in the process of selling its core assets, has been rocked by the disclosure of the breach and a separate case that affected one billion users.

Former FBI cyber agent Milan Patel, explained: "Magically those guys would disappear off the battlefield and most likely end up working for the Russian government".

Kerry Carter, a neighbour of Baratov's, said he moved in about two years ago and was known in the neighbourhood for driving expensive cars and throwing loud parties.

"As this indictment demonstrates, regardless of what methods are employed or where the criminal actors live, if you illegally target USA citizens or American companies, you will be identified, pursued, and held to account wherever you are".

The Russian agents were identified as Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, both members of the successor agency to Russia's KGB. He now faces extradition to the United States, where he is wanted for allegedly working for Russian agents. The FBI San Francisco office has been has been looking into this case for two years.

The four men together face 47 criminal charges, including conspiracy, computer fraud, economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, and aggravated identity theft, the Justice Department said in a news release.

Hackers allegedly gained access to a European diplomat's account, and they targeted accounts of a former Minister of Economic Development in a country bordering Russian Federation (and his wife). "The criminals always go to the place of least resistance", she said.