WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — On September 22, Yahoo announced that a state-sponsored actor hacked its networks in late 2014, stealing information from about 500 million users, including their contact information, passwords and birth dates. The hackers targeted the accounts of Russian and US government officials, Russian journalists, and private-sector employees of financial, transportation, and other companies. The cybercrime is considered one of the largest data breaches in history.
The indictment marks the first US criminal cyber charges against Russian officials in history.
"Today we continue to pierce the veil of anonymity surrounding cyber crimes," FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday. "We are shrinking the world to ensure that cyber criminals think twice before targeting U.S. persons and interests."
According to the indictment unsealed on Wednesday, FSB officers Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Suschin directed the alleged criminal hackers to collect user information through mass computer intrusions.
Dokuchaev and Sushchin have later tasked the co-conspirator and alleged criminal hacker Karim Baratov with gaining unauthorized access to more than 80 accounts at webmail providers other than Yahoo, using the information obtained through the initial data breach. Predominantly Google user accounts have been compromised as a result of the subsequent hack.
On March 7, the US Department of Justice submitted a provisional arrest warrant for Baratov, and he was apprehended in Toronto, Canada on March 14.
The charges against the four co-defendants include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage, according to officials.
Yahoo and Google have extensively cooperated with the US Department of Justice attorneys and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to identify and expose hackers responsible for the data breach.
FBI Executive Director Assistant Paul Abbate underscored the importance of proactive engagement between the government and private sector in effective battle against the growing cyberthreat.
"The FBI will continue to work relentlessly with our private sector and international partners to identify those who conduct cyber-attacks against our citizens and our nation, expose them and hold them accountable under the law, no matter where they attempt to hide," Abbate stated.
Some of the hacked accounts belonged to employees of a prominent Russian cybersecurity company, and employees of commercial entities such as a Russian investment banking firm, a French transportation company, US financial services and private equity firms, a Swiss bitcoin wallet and banking firm and a US airline.