A scheme uncovered during a federal investigation into a huge Yahoo security breach may have opened a window into other hacks potentially instigated by foreign governments, according to computer security experts.
The Democratic National Convention's emails were breached previous year by Russian hackers, allowing them to gain access to messages and chats, including opposition research on President Donald Trump. It'll be hard getting them.
As much as the indictment reveals about the secretive hack, the allegations leave many unanswered questions: how the alleged FSB-led breach relates to the earlier, even bigger intrusion, in 2013, that affected more than a billion accounts; how Belan and co-conspirators got into Yahoo's network to begin with; and how the FSB may have used the information they obtained.
The hacked Yahoo accounts were used to get access to emails associated with Russian journalists, Russian and USA government officials, and Russian and U.S. employees of a variety of organisations.
In September a year ago, Yahoo revealed that in late 2014 an unnamed "state-sponsored actor" had accessed the account information of some approximately 500 million users including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. "We do reach a point where the USA government says we can't reveal any more info and you'll have to take our word on it".
After the Chinese military hackers were indicted, officials said their activity seemed to dwindle.
Along with Dokuchaev, at least three other men reportedly were arrested in the treason case, including Col. Sergei Mikhailov, the deputy head of the FSB's Information Security Center.
"They can do a better job together than they can do at each other's throats", said Robert Cattanach, a partner at law firm Dorsey & Whitney and a former attorney with the Department of Justice. Baratov was arrested Tuesday by authorities in Canada.
The indictment also named 29-year old Latvian-born Russian national and resident Alexsey Alexseyvich Belan, as well as a fourth man, 22-year old Canadian and Kazakh national and Canadian resident Karim Baratov, both of whom are accused of being criminal hackers.
The Justice Department identified the two Russian FSB officers as Dmitry Dokuchaev, 33, and Igor Sushchin, 43.
Indictment links Russia's FSB to massive hacking operation that compromised 500 million accounts. Two intelligence agents from Russian Federation, as well as two known hackers, have just been charged with a criminal offense. Russian media have reported that Dokuchaev and his superior were accused of passing sensitive information to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Particularly galling to USA officials is that Dokuchaev and Sushchin worked for the FSB's Center 18 - a rough equivalent of the FBI's Cyber Division. The FSB did not respond to a request for comment.
U.S. intelligence chiefs said in a report issued in January that their investigations showed Putin oversaw the effort that included hacking Democratic computers and communications and releasing embarrassing documents via WikiLeaks in order to hurt the campaign of Trump's rival Hillary Clinton. "The FBI has a long reach and a longer memory", Bennett said.
Federal Bureau of Investigation executive assistant director Paul Abbate said the agency has asked Moscow for assistance in apprehending the suspects but noted that "we have had limited cooperation with that element of the Russian government". Russian authorities detained him in December and accused him of "interacting" with USA intelligence.
"We appreciate the FBI's diligent investigative work and the DOJ's decisive action to bring to justice to those (sic) responsible for the crimes against Yahoo and its users".
Companies are more likely to be blamed for security incompetence when their networks are compromised by thieves or wayward teenagers than when they become the targets of sophisticated espionage carried out by foreign governments. They regularly see his friends and family come and go but have little interaction with him. The FSB recruited Belan in part by providing him with information that helped him avoid detection by law enforcement, according to the indictment. Though intelligence agencies have said that the hacking of Democratic emails were carried out by Russian Federation to help President Trump's campaign, the latest charges are not related to the matter.