Charges against Canadian in Yahoo hack 'politically motivated': lawyer

The hacks at Yahoo compromised more than 1 billion user accounts.                  Justin Sullivan  Getty Images

In response to Russian election hacking, former President Barack Obama kicked out 35 Russian officials in December as a way to sanction the Russian intelligence service and its top officials.

Belan also hacked Yahoo's account management tool, proprietary software that allows administrators to log changes to Yahoo accounts, the indictment says.

McCord declined to say whether there were any similarities between the Yahoo intrusions and the Russian state penetrations in 2015 and 2016 of the Democratic National Committee. The attackers were able to get their hands on two critical Yahoo resources that they used to trick Yahoo servers into thinking that they were the genuine account owners.

Although the Yahoo attack compromised more than 500 million user accounts, the hackers appeared mainly interested in sifting through the email of Russian and United States government officials, Russian journalists and employees of financial firms and other businesses, according to the indictment.

Belan allegedly used his access to the Yahoo network to concoct an online marketing scheme in which he manipulated search results for erectile dysfunction drugs and profited off redirected web traffic, searched for gift card and credit card numbers in users' accounts, and used more than 30 million accounts for a spam marketing scheme. US officials have said that Bogachyov lives a luxurious life in a southern Russian resort on the Black Sea.

Any extradition seems highly unlikely, however, as Russian Federation and the U.S.do not share a governing treaty, and it is doubtful Moscow would willfully hand over officials, or individuals accused of working on its behalf. "They are like a collection of cats wanting to bring the dead mouse to the master's kitchen", Galeotti said.

Baratov was arrested in Canada Tuesday.

US authorities and cyber security specialists have long said the Kremlin employs criminal hackers for its geostrategic purposes.

Since being released, Artimovich said he has been asked dozens of times to carry out hacking operations, offers he said are created to tempt him to break the law and become vulnerable to FSB pressure. Two others have also been charged.

Dokuchaev was arrested in December in Moscow on treason charges, after he was accused of passing state secrets to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Property records show that in 2015, Baratov and two other people bought a two storey house in an Ancaster subdivision for $642,500, taking out a mortgage of $514,000 that has not yet been paid off. The FSB did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, according to a report of Russia's Sputnik news agency on Wednesday, Washington has never approached Moscow to address the accusations and the probe against Russian nationals allegedly involved in hacker attacks on Yahoo accounts, citing a highly-placed Russian source.

"We've reached the point that name and shame indictments are no longer sufficient, we really need to follow through with successful convictions", said McAndrew.

Kerry Carter, a neighbour of Baratov's, said he moved in about two years ago and was known in the neighbourhood for driving expensive cars and throwing loud parties.

In other instances, according to the indictment, the hackers "sought access to accounts of employees of commercial entities, including executives and other managers of a prominent Russian investment banking firm...; a French transportation company; USA financial services and private equity firms; a Swiss bitcoin wallet and banking firm; and a US airline".

The arrested agents implicated in the cyber-case were identified as Dmitry Dokuchaev, 33, and Igor Sushchin, 43, both intelligent officers in the FSB, the successor agency to Russia's KGB.

USA intelligence authorities have concluded that Russian intelligence agencies were behind hacking efforts of Democratic email accounts in last year's election.

"You can try and hide in the corners of the dark web, but we will hunt you down", said Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent John Bennett at a press conference on Wednesday.

The four are accused of computer hacking, economic espionage and other conspiracy charges.

The Justice Department's assertion that the FSB was directing the hacking likely provides political and legal cover for Yahoo, which saw its multibillion-dollar deal with Verizon teeter after it was forced to warn consumers that their private information might have been exposed. The Kremlin intelligence officials' targets included Russian journalists and government officials as well as senior officials of foreign governments and corporations.

But Yahoo probably wouldn't have been targeted in the first place if it hadn't been viewed as easier prey than other major tech companies, including Google and Microsoft, that also oversee email services with hundreds of millions of users, said Avivah Litan of Gartner Inc. They regularly see his friends and family come and go but have little interaction with him.

Yahoo disclosed the theft of the data last September and said it was working with law enforcement authorities to trace the perpetrators.

"Today we continue to pierce the veil of anonymity surrounding cyber crimes", said Director Comey.

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