The US Justice Department on Wednesday indicted two officials of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, and two criminal hackers they hired to steal data from some 500 million Yahoo user accounts.
The Center for Information Security at the FSB, also known as “Center 18”, where the pair worked, was supposed to assist USA law enforcement in the course of investigations, officials said during a press conference on Wednesday.
The US has accused Sushchin and Dokuchaev not just of directing Belan to hack into Yahoo, but also facilitating his unrelated criminal activities by feeding him “intelligence information that would have helped him avoid detection by US and other law enforcement agencies”.
The hacked Yahoo accounts were used to get access to emails associated with Russian journalists, Russian and United States government officials, and Russian and United States employees of a variety of organisations. Baratov, a Canadian and Kazakh national who lives in Canada, was arrested Tuesday and will be extradited to the U.S. Dokuchaev has been in custody since late a year ago on treason charges.
“The indictment unequivocally shows the attacks on Yahoo were state-sponsored”, said Chris Madsen, an assistant general counsel for security and law enforcement at Yahoo.
The hackers are accused of using all kinds of methods, from simple things like “spear phishing” to stealing and creating their own authentication cookies from Yahoo’s servers.
Meanwhile, it’s important to state that the Kremlin has denied that the FSB had any involvement with the Yahoo hack. We knew that the intrusion was pretty bad-the Justice Department called it the largest data breach in U.S. history-but the indictment offers new details on how the hackers allegedly exploited their access to Yahoo’s servers for sweet, sweet cash. 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.
Yahoo reported the 2014 hack last fall – in what was then considered the largest data breach in history.
A grand jury seated in northern California, near the Sunnyvale headquarters of Yahoo, handed down 47 counts against all those indicted, ranging from aggravated identity theft and unauthorized access to protected computers to economic espionage, wire fraud and theft of trade secrets. “Gift cards, credit cards, trying to reset user accounts and all that stuff that goes along with it”, Bennett said.
U.S. authorities and cyber security specialists have been saying for years that the Kremlin employs criminal hackers, allowing the Russian government to advance its agenda while denying involvement.
Baratov maintains his innocence and has no prior criminal record, his lawyer said, adding that people should wait for all facts to emerge in the case. Belan allegedly targeted anyone searching for erectile dysfunction medication. They were also allegedly looking for a way inside other networks, like Gmail and many other companies.
The dozen-plus charges are unrelated to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. It contained a lot of information that could be used to reset passwords and gain entry to Yahoo accounts, such as phone numbers, answers to security questions and recovery email addresses used to reset forgotten passwords.
McCord said they are not alleging any connection between the two.
US officials said it was especially galling that the scheme involved officers from a Russian counterespionage service that theoretically should be working collaboratively with its Federal Bureau of Investigation counterparts.
The hack resulted in a leak of thousands of emails and attachments from the DNC, published by WikiLeaks. In a 2004 interview with the Russian newspaper Vedomosti, Forb boasted of making money from credit-card fraud and breaking into USA government websites.