In a move that many fear will aggravate the relationship between the US and Russia, two Russian nationals who suspected of being spies for the Russian intelligence agency, FSB, are among four individuals indicted by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) over a huge theft of Yahoo user accounts.
Occurring in 2014, the hack resulted in 500 million accounts being affected, a breach that Yahoo claim was caused by “state-sponsored” hackers. According to Yahoo, the date breached included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and passwords, but not credit card data.
Those arrested are also suspected of having targeted Google accounts.
The DOJ also claimed that the hacking was directed at Russian and US government officials, as well as diplomatic, military and security personnel.
DOJ went on to say that over 30 million Yahoo accounts were hijacked illegally as part of a large spam campaign.
Acting attorney general Mary McCord, announcing the charges, said, “We will not allow individuals, groups, nation states, or a combination of them to compromise the privacy of our citizens, the economic interests of our companies, or the security of our country.”
The four suspects arrested were identified in the DOJ press release as:
- Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, a Russian national and FSB officer
- Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, a Russian national and FSB officer
- Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, 29, a Russian national and resident
- Karim Baratov, 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada
In what came as welcome news for many in the FBI, McCord claimed that one of the suspects is one of the FBI’s most wanted cyber criminals – a man the FBI had been chasing for over three years.
Alexsey Belan, claimed by the DOJ to be have been assisted by the FSB, is alleged to have been given “sensitive FSB law enforcement and intelligence information that would have helped him avoid detection by US and other law enforcement agencies outside Russia.”
Recognising the lack of an official extradition procedure with Russia, McCord said that, “We would hope [Russia] would respect our criminal justice system and respect these charges.”
Not unknown to the world of cyber-crime defense, the FBI also thanked UK’s MI5 who had “made substantial contributions to the advancement of this investigation.”