March 15, 2017 10:30 am
Updated: March 15, 2017 2:17 pm

U.S. accuses Russian spies, Canadian hacker in 2014 Yahoo hack

WATCH ABOVE: DOJ says Russian intelligence worked with criminal hackers to attack Yahoo.

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A Canadian has been taken into custody as part of the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation into the massive 2014 cyberattack against Yahoo, which compromised an estimated 500 million accounts.

22-year-old Karim Baratov, a Canadian-Kazakh national, is one of four people including two Russian security officers who have been charged.

READ MORE: Yahoo says hacker stole info on 500M user accounts in massive data breach

The indictments, announced at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday, target two members of the Russian intelligence agency FSB and two other hackers allegedly hired by the Russians. The indictments represent the first time the U.S. government has criminally charged Russian officials for cyber offenses.

WATCH: DOJ says Russian intelligence worked with criminal hackers to attack Yahoo


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Alexsey Belan, who is on America’s list of most-wanted cyber criminals, was also named in the indictment. All are accused of computer hacking, economic espionage and other criminal offences.

The Justice Department said Baratov was arrested in Canada on Tuesday and that his case is now pending with Canadian authorities.

READ MORE: Here’s what you need to know about the Yahoo hack

Belan was arrested in an European country in June 2013 but escaped to Russia before he could be extradited to the United States, according to the Justice Department.

“The criminal conduct at issue, carried out and otherwise facilitated by officers from an FSB unit that serves as the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow on cyber crime matters, is beyond the pale,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord.

Karim Baratov, 22, a Canadian-Kazakh national, is one of four people including two Russian security officers who have been charged.

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McCord said the hacking campaign was waged by the FSB to collect intelligence but that the two hackers used the collected information as an opportunity to “line their pockets.”

The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but McCord said she was hopeful Russian authorities would cooperate in bringing criminals to justice. The United States often charges cyber criminals with the intent of deterring future state-sponsored activity.

The 47-count indictment includes conspiracy, computer fraud and abuse, economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identify theft.

The Justice Department quickly noted that the charges are not related to the hacking of Democratic emails that took place during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Intelligence agencies have said they were carried out by Russia in order to help the campaign of Republican President Donald Trump.

WATCH: No connection between DNC, Yahoo hacks: DOJ

When Yahoo initially announced the security breach last September, the company said it was working with law enforcement authorities and believed the attack was state-sponsored.

READ MORE: Over 1 billion Yahoo users likely affected by 3-year-old data breach

The company later announces an even bigger breach in December that occurred in 2013 and affected one billion accounts, though it has not linked that intrusion to the one in 2014.

“We’re committed to keeping our users and our platforms secure and will continue to engage with law enforcement to combat cyber crime,” Chris Madsen, Yahoo‘s assistant general counsel, said in a statement.

The hacking conspiracy, which began as early as 2014, allowed Belan to use his relationship with the Russian spy agency and access to Yahoo‘s network to engage in financial crimes.

WATCH: Yahoo, Google informed DOJ about data breach: authorities

The breach announcements were the latest in a series of setbacks for the Internet pioneer, which has fallen on hard times in recent years after being eclipsed by younger, fast-growing rivals including Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc.

Yahoo’s disclosure of the years-old cyber invasions and its much-criticized slow response forced it to accept a discount of $350 million in what had been a $4.83 billion deal to sell its main assets to Verizon Communications Inc.

© 2017 Reuters

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