The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted four people, two of whom are alleged to work for the Russian FSB intelligence agency, over the 2014 hack of Yahoo Inc.
In its indictment filing, the DOJ alleged that Russian intelligence agents Igor Suschin and Dmitry Dokuchaev hired fellow Russian Alexsey Belan and Canadian citizen Karim Baratov to hack Yahoo’s servers so as to obtain personal and financial information from users, including government officials and journalists.
The DOJ said in a statement that the accused used stolen information to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google Inc. and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies.
Charges against the four accused include economic espionage, trade secret theft, wire fraud and generic hacking charges. If proven, the charges could result in life sentences.
Yahoo first reported the 2014 hacking last September, two years after it occurred and only after the compromised account details were offered for sale on the dark web, a part of the Internet available only through the use of certain software. Notably, the company, soon to be acquired by Verizon Communications Inc. at a $350 million discount on its initial acquisition price of $4.83 billion precisely because of the damage from the hacks, stated at the time that they believed the hack was undertaken by a “state-sponsored actor.”
Because no spy story is complete without a twist, one of the accused, Dokuchaev, was arrested in Russia in December on treason charges after being accused of passing secrets to the Central Intelligence Agency. That means that, according to Russia at least, Dokuchaev was being paid by the CIA at the time he ordered the Yahoo hack. Oddly, according to the New York Times, U.S. officials said Wednesday they weren’t sure the Dmitry Dokuchaev arrested in December was the same individual named in the indictment.
Baratov was arrested in Canada on Tuesday, but because the United States and Russia have no extradition treaty, the two Russians not currently in prison for allegedly working with the CIA have not been detained.
Belan was previously arrested in Europe in 2013 before escaping to Russia. Previously he has been listed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list, with a $100,000 reward, on allegations that he hacked three major e-commerce companies in California and Nevada and used the information for fraud and identity theft.