FBI charges Russian spies over Yahoo hack

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When the news of Yahoo’s massive hack began to break last year — we can forgive you if you don’t remember which one that is, since there’ve been so many — the company attempted to perform damage control by claiming this was the work of foreign operatives. These claims were initially met with disdain — there was no evidence, at the time, of foreign involvement. Now the FBI says that there was, and it’s named a group of hackers to its “most wanted” list:

  • Karim Baratov, 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada
  • Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, 29, a Russian national and resident
  • Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, a Russian national and FSB officer
  • Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, a Russian national and FSB officer

One suspect, Baratov, was arrested yesterday in Canada and is in custody. At least one hacker, Alexsey Belan, is believed to be cooperating directly with the Russian FSB (the main successor to the KGB).


The US worked closely with the UK’s MI5 to analyze the hacks and determine who was responsible. The hackers supposedly gained access to Yahoo in early 2014, and by November and December were pulling down data, including user names, recovery email addresses, email accounts, and phone numbers. They also got cryptographic information needed for account authentication.

As time went on, the hacks became more sophisticated. The hacking team eventually were able to focus on approximately 6,500 accounts belonging to Russian journalists, diplomats, cloud computing service employees, public affairs consultants, government officials (in both nations), and Russian security companies. But it wasn’t all work — the team also found time to sell erectile dysfunction products, spam users, steal gift cards, and generally make the internet an even more enjoyable place to be than it already is. The hackers went on to use their Yahoo knowledge to launch attacks against Gmail as well, ultimately targeting 50 specific Gmail accounts.

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