After more than two years of investigations, the Justice Department has decided to charge four individuals for the massive Yahoo hacking incident that endangered the privacy of 500 million users in 2014.
The indictments, which will be announced on Wednesday, target two Russian spies and two criminal hackers hired by the Russians. The case marks the first time the US has launched criminal cyber charges against Russian government officials.
Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin both worked for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which can be compared to the FBI’s Cyber Division. The other two hackers are Alexsey Belan, a “most-wanted” in the world of cybercrime, and Karim Baratov.
Dokuchaev was arrested last December in Moscow and Baratov was apprehended this Tuesday in Canada. Belan is currently under protection in Russia, and officials do not have access to Sushchin.
The FSB allegedly hacked Yahoo for intel it could use to target dissidents, journalists, and US government officials. Belan and Baratov were then allowed to use the email cache for their financial gain.
“[The indictments] have the effect of galvanizing other countries that are watching what’s happening,” explains Luke Dembosky, a former deputy assistant attorney general for national security. “They show that we have the resources and capabilities to identify the people at the keyboard, even in the most sophisticated cases.”
The Yahoo case is in no way related to the massive DNC hacking scandal that supposedly affected the US presidential election. While the Obama Administration has publically blamed Russia for interfering in the election and has levied sanctions against Moscow, no criminal charges have been filed.
The timing of the Yahoo indictments seems to reflect the desire to catch Russia doing something to us. The case certainly lends validity to the longstanding suspicion that the Russian government uses cyber mercenaries to do its dirty work, but I personally do not believe that the Russians were behind the DNC hack.
The four hackers charged in the Yahoo case are criminals and should be in jail, but the incident is ultimately Yahoo’s fault for failing to protect the massive amounts of private information it had access to.
Yahoo should be fined for the privacy breach.