Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Money | By Oscar Reynolds

Russian Spies Are The Masterminds Behind The Yahoo Hack

Russian Spies Are The Masterminds Behind The Yahoo Hack

U.S. authorities on Wednesday (15 March) brought forward charges against two Kremlin intelligence (FSB) officials and two criminal hackers for launching a massive cyberattack on Yahoo in 2014, which compromised around 500 million user accounts.

According to the Department of Justice, Demitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin were the masterminds behind the information theft.

The hacks allegedly targeted the email accounts of Russian and United States officials, Russian journalists, and employees of financial services and other businesses, according to the officials.

Baratov was allegedly recruited to use the data hacked by Belan to carry out phishing attacks, designed at gaining even more information.

Those accounts belonged to a variety of entities worldwide, including a French transport company, a Swiss bitcoin wallet and banking firm, a US airline, Russian and USA government officials, Russian journalists and an official at the International Monetary Fund, the indictment says.

And one of the outside hackers, a Russian named Alexsey Belan, had been indicted twice before for three intrusions into American e-commerce companies and had been arrested in Europe, but he escaped to Russia before he could be extradited.

The FBI's Bennett said that though the USA doesn't have an extradition agreement with Russian Federation, he was confident the three suspects would not remain at large. He was paid $100 for each successfully hacked account, the indictment says.

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.

They could also make it harder for US President Donald Trump to achieve his stated hope of smoothing relations with Moscow, amid ongoing probes into links between his campaign advisors and Moscow.

Those who are still using their Yahoo accounts can at least now know the culprits behind the hacking of 500 million of those Yahoo accounts are being criminally charged. "We believe the charges against him may be politically motivated by the U.S. He is a 22 year old young man with no criminal record".

Another interesting tidbit from the indictment was the number of Russian officials using Yahoo and Gmail accounts, including a "senior officer" of a Russian webmail and internet-related services provider.

"We've reached the point that name and shame indictments are no longer sufficient, we really need to follow through with successful convictions", said McAndrew.

He said the case "underscores the complexity and the urgency" of the committee's investigation of Russian interference in the USA election.

Federal Bureau of Investigation posters carry details of what the agency claims are Russian hackers who penetrated Yahoo, possibly for years.

McCord said they are not alleging any connection between the two. The hackers obtained a large database that helped them create forged cookies, which were enough to access a Yahoo Mail account without the owner's knowledge and without any login credentials.

"They have the effect of galvanizing other countries that are watching what's happening", said Luke Dembosky, a former deputy assistant attorney general for national security.

Previously, the United States government accused Russian Federation of hacking the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) computer networks, alleging that Moscow was attempting to "interfere" with the 2016 presidential election - an allegation which the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

Many worry that Moscow is also behind WikiLeaks' publication of a trove of documents on the Central Intelligence Agency's own hacking program last week, which exposed secrets and embarrassed the USA spy agency.

The Justice Department's assertion that the FSB was directing the hacking likely provides political and legal cover for Yahoo, which saw its multibillion-dollar deal with Verizon teeter after it was forced to warn consumers that their private information might have been exposed.

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