Published: Thu, March 16, 2017
Science | By Kerry Wheeler

San Francisco grand jury indicts Russian nationals over Yahoo hack


It was a nefarious partnership: two spies with Russia's Federal Security Service - or FSB - joining two criminal hackers, who broke into the half-billion Yahoo accounts.

"People rightly expect that their communications through Silicon Valley internet providers will remain private, unless lawful authority provides otherwise", said U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch for the Northern District of California.

However, the officials said, they believe that such charges are useful for sending a message that adversaries face consequences for targeting US companies for traditional spying or financial gain. He was born in Soviet Latvia but holds a Russian passport.

One of these individuals has already been arrested in Canada, The Washington Post said.

The four men together face 47 criminal charges, including conspiracy, computer fraud, economic espionage, theft of trade secrets and aggravated identity theft, the Justice Department said in a news release.

According to the source, they are not related to the hacking of Democratic emails that took place during the 2016 USA presidential election.

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That breach affected at least 500 million users whose email addresses, birth dates, answers to security questions, and other personal information may have been stolen.

The Russian spies are FSB operatives, the report notes, while the criminal hackers were hired by the Russians.

Reuters and Bloomberg, citing anonymous officials, said the U.S. Justice Department announcement could come as early as March 15.

In a statement, Yahoo's assistant general counsel and head of global law enforcement, security and safety Chris Madsen wrote: "We appreciate the FBI's diligent investigative work and the DOJ's decisive action to bring to justice those responsible for the crimes against Yahoo and its users". Other agency officials say the nation involved is Russian Federation.

Belan has been indicted twice before and has been on the FBI's most wanted cyber criminals list for more than three years. However, given that the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Russian Federation, only one of the four people involved may end up facing trial.

These formal Justice Department charges mark the first time the US has formally charged Russian government officials. Belan initiated the hack in November 2014 by stealing Yahoo's cookie "minting" source code, which enabled the defendants to manufacture account cookies to then gain access to individual user accounts, according to the indictment.

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