Wednesday, 20 September, 2017

United States authorities charge Russian spies, hackers in huge Yahoo hack

Marissa Mayer Yahoo email hack allegedly masterminded by two Russian intelligence officers
Juana Turner | 19 March, 2017, 01:01

The Kremlin has denied its spying branch, the FSB, is involved in criminal hacking after two of its agents were charged in the United States over a huge data breach at Yahoo.

The FBI says hackers used social engineering techniques on a "semi-privileged" Yahoo employee in order to break into the company's systems and access 500 million user accounts.

Whitehall sources said that MI5 was brought in to investigate the threat because the activities of Russia's FSB intelligence agency fitted into its remit to target "hostile actors", whether or not the email accounts of British citizens were targeted.

The case, announced amid continued US intelligence agency skepticism of their Russian counterparts, comes as USA authorities investigative Russian interference through hacking in the 2016 presidential election.

Yahoo declined to comment beyond a statement thanking law enforcement for its efforts. According to the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department of NSD, "The FSB officers used criminal hackers to gain information that clearly some of which has intelligence value".

He told reporters Russian Federation had received no official word about the charges and was getting all its information from the media.

Hackers accessed user accounts by fooling Yahoo into thinking they had already signed in.

Among the 6,500 Yahoo users the FSB agents targeted with this scheme were targets that were "of predictable interest", including journalists, government officials in both the U.S. and Russia, and the staff of "a prominent Russian cybersecurity company". Special Agent Jack Bennett of the FBI's San Francisco Division said the 2013 breach is unrelated and that an investigation of that incident is ongoing.

Karim Baratov's video court appearance Friday marks the beginning of what is expected to be a lengthy process for determining whether Canada will extradite him to face U.S. Justice Department charges related to computer hacking, economic espionage and several other offences.

The 2014 hacking of Yahoo's servers is the second largest.

One billion Yahoo accounts are up for sale at $200,000 or best offer, a media report has said. The Justice Department in its press conference stressed that its indictment was based on allegations. For example, investigators now say that the breach began with a spear-phishing attack on a "semi-privileged" user at Yahoo. Officials say this case is separate from that investigation, though one of the defendants in the Yahoo case, Belan, was among the Russians sanctioned a year ago by the Obama administration.

USA intelligence authorities have concluded that Russian intelligence agencies were behind hacking efforts of Democratic email accounts in last year's election.

The number of user accounts affected was massive, even compared with other major data breaches.

Whatever Dokuchaev and Sushchin's motives, they were obviously not paying the hackers Belan and Baratov enough because Belan was running a scam on the side taking a cut on sales of "erectile dysfunction drugs" and searching accounts for gift cards and credit card information.

Yahoo has praised the news, saying: "The indictment unequivocally shows the attacks on Yahoo were state-sponsored".

"We've come to expect that you don't really figure out who performs these attacks", Mogull said.

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