Russian Spies Indicted in Yahoo Email Hack

Justice Department charged two intelligence agents and two hackers over massive data breach

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that a grand jury has indicted two Russian intelligence agents and two co-conspirators over a data breach that affected 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014.

According to the DOJ’s statement, defendants Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev and Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin — both FSB officers — as well as hackers Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan and Karim Baratov are accused of using unauthorized access to Yahoo to steal information from at least 500 million accounts.

They then used that information to “locate Yahoo email accounts of interest” and mint “cookies,” which provide account authentication for web browsers, for at least 6,500 accounts. Those targeted accounts included Russian journalists, Russian and U.S. government officials and prominent businesspeople.

Belan is known to law enforcement, having twice been indicted previously by grand juries and named to the FBI’s “Cyber Most Wanted” list. He was arrested in a European country in 2013 pursuant to a request from the U.S., but fled to Russia where he worked with Dokuchaev and Sushchin to obtain access to Yahoo’s emails. Upon learning that a target had accounts outside of Yahoo, the FSB agents hired Baratov to hack more than 80 accounts on other email providers.

The DOJ said the intrusions began in 2014, and the conspirators lost their access to Yahoo’s systems in September 2016.

“Cyber crime poses a significant threat to our nation’s security and prosperity, and this is one of the largest data breaches in history,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the statement. “But thanks to the tireless efforts of U.S. prosecutors and investigators, as well as our Canadian partners, today we have identified four individuals, including two Russian FSB officers, responsible for unauthorized access to millions of users’ accounts. The United States will vigorously investigate and prosecute the people behind such attacks to the fullest extent of the law.”