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DOJ has charged Russian spies allegedly responsible for massive Yahoo breach

Updated Mar 15th, 2017 11:52AM EDT
Yahoo Mail Account Hack Russia

It’s been an uneasy few months for Yahoo, which had to disclose three different large-scale breaches, two of which affected more than one billion accounts in total. The Justice Department has concluded at least one investigation and will announce on Wednesday the indictments of two Russian spies as well as two criminal hackers who will all be formally charged with one of the Yahoo hacks.

According to The Washington Post, the charges include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage, and are part of the largest hacking case brought by the United States.

The Russian spies are FSB operatives, the report notes, while the criminal hackers were hired by the Russians. The attackers are allegedly responsible for the 2014 Yahoo hack, which breached more than 500 million Yahoo accounts. The FSB sought “information for intelligence purposes, targeting journalists, dissidents, and U.S. government officials,” but the spy agency allowed its officials and the hackers to use the email caches for personal financial gain.

Yahoo reported the attack last fall, at which point it was considered the largest data breach in history. Soon enough, Yahoo beat its own record by disclosing a second attack that took place in 2013 and affected more than one billion accounts. It’s unclear whether the incidents are connected.

This is the second time in a matter of months that the US will charge Russia with hacking after the Obama administration revealed that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC last summer. However, The Post notes that the DOJ’s imminent indictment is not related to the DNC hack.

Investigators identified Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin as the FSB officers involved in the Yahoo attack. The two worked for the FSB’s equivalent of the FBI’s Cyber Division. Interestingly, Dokuchaev was already arrested in Russia last December and charged with state treason for passing information to the CIA.

It’s unlikely that Russia will extradite the men for trial in the US.

The independent hackers are Alexsey Belan, who’s on the list of most-wanted cyber criminals and who’s currently in Russia under the state’s protection, and Karim Baratov, a Canadian citizen arrested on Tuesday. Belan was sanctioned by the Obama administration last December, with no apparent connection to Russia’s interference in the US election.

Russia is probably in store for more sanctions, which appears to be the only weapon that can be used in these cases.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.