Two agents of the Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B., and two Russian citizens were charged by Federal prosecutors on Wednesday for their roles in a conspiracy that led to the 2014 theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts, one of the largest known data breaches. The other two defendants are also RUssian but one is Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada.
The breach affected at least 500 million Yahoo accounts, the Department of Justice said. The hackers are accused of accessing personal accounts belonging to those including Russian journalists, Russian government officials, U.S. government officials, U.S. financial services and private equity firms and a U.S. airline, the Justice Department said.
The Justice Department said, “FSB officer defendants, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, protected, directed, facilitated and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the U.S. and elsewhere. … They worked with co-defendants Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to obtain access to the email accounts.”
Belan was named one of the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted criminals in November 2013.
The alleged crime began at least as early as 2014. The defendants lost access to Yahoo’s networks in September 2016 but continued to use stolen information until at least December 2016, according to the DOJ.
Though the Justice Department has previously charged Russian hackers with cybercrime – as well as hackers sponsored by the Chinese and Iranian governments – this would be the first criminal case brought against Russian government officials.
It comes as federal authorities investigate Russian interference through hacking in the 2016 presidential election. However, acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord told reporters that this indictment “doesn’t allege any connection” to the DNC breach from the summer of 2016. McCord also said that the massive hacking may have had some intelligence value, but the actions undertaken by the defendants lined their own pockets for private financial gain.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer publicly thanked US authorities Wednesday, saying she was “very grateful” to the FBI and DOJ.
The San Francisco FBI office has scheduled a news conference for later Wednesday afternoon on undisclosed topics.
Yahoo has been breached at least twice, and the company previously said a September 2014 breach was state-sponsored but declined to identify who it believed was responsible.
Source: CNN and ABC.