U.S. authorities charge Russian spies, hackers in huge Yahoo hack

Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:09am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday charged two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers with masterminding the 2014 theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts, the first time the U.S. government has criminally charged Russian spies for cyber offences.

The charges came amid a swirl of controversies relating to alleged Kremlin-backed hacking of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible links between Russian figures and associates of U.S. President Donald Trump. This has given rise to uncertainty about whether Trump is willing to respond forcefully to any action by Moscow in cyberspace and elsewhere.

The 47-count Justice Department indictment included charges of conspiracy, computer fraud and abuse, economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identify theft. It painted a picture of the Russian security services working hand-in-hand with cyber criminals, who helped spies further their intelligence goals in exchange for using the same exploits to make money.

"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,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord said at a press conference announcing the charges.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is the successor to the KGB.

The Kremlin, which denies Russia tried to influence the U.S. election in any way, said on Thursday Moscow had received no official notification of the indictment, but hoped it would.

However, Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, dismissed out of hand the idea that FSB employees could have been involved in the Yahoo hack.

"We have said repeatedly that there can be no discussion of any official involvement of any Russian agency, including the FSB...in any unlawful cyber activities," said Peskov, who has cast U.S. allegations against Russia as part of a political campaign to kill off a U.S.-Russia rapprochement.   Continued...

 
The John Sopinka Courthouse, where Karim Baratov appeared in front of a judge, in connection with a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the 2014 hacking of Yahoo, is pictured in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada March 15, 2017 . REUTERS/Peter Power