Russia says it was not involved in any unlawful cyber activities, a day after the U.S. Justice Department announced indictments for two Russian spies and two other people suspected of stealing personal information of millions of people in a 2014 hack of Yahoo.
In December, then-president Barack Obama updated an executive order naming Belan as among hackers whose activities posed a "significant threat" to US national security or financial stability or were aimed at "interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions".
One of the hackers indicted by the DOJ was arrested in Canada on Tuesday, while one of the FSB officers is already in custody in Russian Federation.
Along with Dokuchaev, at least three other men reportedly were arrested in the treason case, including Col. Sergei Mikhailov, the deputy head of the FSB's Information Security Center.
For Yahoo the indictment is a good result as it confirms the company's previous claims that the massive data breach it suffered was carried out by state-sponsored actors, and was not necessarily down to poor security on it part.
The indictment comes amid increasing scrutiny of Russian efforts to affect the presidential election, including through the hack of the Democratic National Committee. The U.S. has issued warrants for their arrest. "We can put the full capabilities of the United States behind you to make cases like this, but we cannot do it without your help". "We commend Yahoo and Google for their sustained and invaluable cooperation in the investigation aimed at obtaining justice for, and protecting the privacy of their users".
The incident, which the company disclosed a year ago, is believed to be the nation's second-largest security breach, topped only by another Yahoo hack that affected more than 1 billion users in 2013. Officials have not determined whether there is a link between the two. Yahoo has said it has not been able to glean much information about that attack, which was uncovered by InfoArmor, an Arizona security firm.
The combination of thefts led to Verizon (vzn) negotiating a reduced price for its pending acquisition of Yahoo.
Hackers accessed user accounts by fooling Yahoo into thinking they had already signed in.
The indictment unsealed in federal court in San Francisco showed a series of techniques used by the hackers in accessing user accounts.
"In this case, after collecting the data on their political targets, which includes employees of commercial entities in transportation and financial services, the hackers were given free rein with the spoils - the data from 500 million Yahoo users", said Tim Matthews, vice president of marketing for the computer security company Imperva.
Belan has been indicted twice before and has been on the FBI's most wanted cyber criminals list for more than three years. Belan had been indicted in 2012 and 2013 for hacking e-commerce data and was arrested in Europe in June 2013.
Baratov was arrested under the extradition act, and appeared in court in Hamilton Wednesday morning, court staff said. The other two defendants are Belan, 29, a Russian national and resident; and Karim Baratov, 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada. He was an associate of FSB officer Dmitry Dokuchaev, 33. He would mount spear-phishing attacks, using fake emails to compel targets to provide sensitive information. He was paid $100 for each victim's credentials that he passed on to Dokuchaev.
According to the U.S. government's indictment, Belan appeared to have played a major role in the attack, while Baratov was likely the least involved in the incident.
The charges "illustrate the murky world of Russian intel services using criminal hackers in a wide variety of ways", said Milan Patel, a former FBI Cyber Division supervisory special agent who is now a managing director at K2 Intelligence, a cyber firm. Interestingly, Dokuchaev was already arrested in Russian Federation last December and charged with state treason for passing information to the Central Intelligence Agency. The other was Dmitry Dokuchaev, described as a hacker for hire who was pressed into working for the FSB to avoid prosecution for bank-card fraud.
This wanted poster provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, a Russian national. "We're committed to keeping our users and our platforms secure and will continue to engage with law enforcement to combat cybercrime". Instead, "they turned against that type of work".
While this has always been known in intelligence circles, the charges against Russian intelligence officers in the Yahoo hacking case bring it out into the open. After announcing the indictments USA will put out another official request for their extradition, he said. At the same time, the government sanctioned two Russian criminal hackers with no apparent connection to the Kremlin's interference campaign.
What do you think of these four being indicted?