Indictment claims Russian spies and hackers routinely collaborate to undermine US companies and government.
Four people have been indicted by a California Grand Jury of the 2014 cyber security attack against Yahoo. U.S. officials have claimed the accusations are proof of a symbiotic relationship between Moscow’s security services and a close cabal of individual Russian hackers.
The evidence released in court documents so far is compelling. “A grand jury in the Northern District of California has indicted four defendants, including two officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), for computer hacking, economic espionage and other criminal offences in connection with a conspiracy, beginning in January 2014, to access Yahoo’s network and the contents of web-mail accounts… We will not allow individuals, groups, nation states, or a combination of them to compromise the privacy of our citizens, the economic interests of our companies, or the security of our country,” said acting attorney general Mary McCord, announcing the charges.
The four defendants in the case have been named as, “Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, a Russian national and resident; Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, a Russian national and resident; Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, aka “Magg,” 29, a Russian national and resident; and Karim Baratov, aka “Kay,” Karim Taloverov and Karim Akehmet Tokbergenov, 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada.”
Yahoo have previously said that the 2014 security breach that went undiscovered for over two years, and affected its final sale price to Verizon, that “state-sponsored” hackers were behind the breach that affected 500 million accounts. The indictment also alleges that the accused targeted Google accounts, but were unsuccessful in their attempts.
Despite successfully managing to break into 500,000,000 Yahoo accounts, the hackers main targets were Russian and US government officials, including security, diplomatic and military personnel, according to the DOJ court files. Among other other charges, the indictment also alleges that up to 30 million Yahoo accounts were hijacked for use in a spam campaign.
The charges linking Russian government sponsored hackers takes place at a time of mounting tensions between U.S. intelligence agencies and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, which has been accused of hacking the 2016 U.S. presidential election to try and influence the vote in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump. Congressional committees are also investigating possible links between Russian figures and associates of President Trump.
The data stolen in the 2014 hack included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and encrypted passwords, but crucially, not credit card data, according to Yahoo.
While the preliminary evidence so far seems quite conclusive, the DOJ charges do remind us all that “An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.”
Time will tell.