16 Mar 2017

The theft of half a billion Yahoo user accounts has been well-documented.  Not only has it affected users, it’s also caused problems with Yahoo’s attempted buyout to Verizon.  Some scoffed when Yahoo mentioned being hacked by state-sponsored hackers, but now it appears there’s some validity to that claim.  The US Justice Department revealed an indictment of four men in the case, two of whom work for the Russian Federal Security Service.

The first is a Canadian and Kazakh national living in Canada by the name of Karim Baratov.  Baratov was reportedly hired to hack into the email accounts by Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, two FSB agents who are also named in the indictment.

Baratov is interesting because he was not only the least involved individual named, but also the least careful.  He was tracked pretty easily through dozens of domains registered in his name.  Several of these spoof popular online services and many sell hacking services, including ones that claims to be able to hack email addresses without having to change the victim’s password.

Another name on the list is that of Russian national Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, who has been on the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted List for several years in connection with large-scale credit card information theft.  Belan was actually arrested previously, but he escaped and made his way to the safety of Russia. which sounds like it might make a pretty cool movie.

Belan stole a tool used by Yahoo to log user account changes and created cookies to monitor addresses that were of interest to Dokuchaev and Sushchin.

Dokuchaev worked for the FSB’s Center for Information Security.  He is reported to have gone to work for the FSB to avoid fraud persecution.  He was also charged with treason for sending information to the CIA.

Sushchin headed information security for a Russian financial firm, though he was actually an FSB officer monitoring the firm’s communications.

So what was the purpose of the hack?  The accounts spotlighted by the FSB agents were the type you would expect, including US and Russian government employees, reporters, cybersecurity companies, employees at major financial firms and the like.

Belan got a bit extra for his work.  The FSB agents gave him information to help avoid detection in his other hacking activities.  He also used the stolen Yahoo information to steal credit card numbers and gift cards and used stolen addresses for a spam campaign to earn commissions from fraudulent website traffic.

Baratov, who has a tendency to show off how much money he has, was arrested in Canada.  Dokuchaev was arrested back in December for the aforementioned treason charges.

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