Two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers have been formally accused of stealing more than 500 million U.S. Yahoo email accounts.
Officers of the FSB, the internal security of the Russian state, allegedly commissioned cyber-hackers to access Yahoo’s email network to steal half a billion accounts of ordinary users, as well as data for U.S. officials and CEO’s of large corporations.
History of cybercrime
U.S. News reports that interviews with security experts, hackers, and people close to the Russian cyber-hacking industry suggest that the Russian internal security’s links to cybercrime has a long-dated history running off blackmail and money.
According to the indictment, FSB agents Igor Sushchin and Dmitry Dokuchaev ran the ‘Yahoo operation’ and employed hackers – known as Aleksei Belan and Karim Baratov – to access the email accounts. The indictment continues to state that Mr Belan used the data for his own personal gain by running a spamming network hunting for financial information.
Mr Dokuchaev was identified by the pseudonym “Forb” in the Russian magazine, Hacker. According to Russian newspaper Vedomosti Fob boasted about breaking into U.S. government websites along with other cyber-criminal activity.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord was shocked by the accusations of the FSB officers, as she noted their department was “the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow for cybercrime matters”. Ms McCord is said to be dismayed by the allegations made about the FSB officers as they had law enforcement responsibilities.
President Putin’s defence
Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, was quick to defend Russia’s involvement. President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, reaffirmed Russia’s denial of any official involvement in hacking Yahoo or the U.S., saying:
“…we have repeatedly said that there absolutely can’t be any talk about Russian agency’s official involvement, including the FSB, in any illegal actions in cyberspace.”
Support that Russia was behind the scandal
These suspicions are supported by a former British intelligence officer, Nigel Inkster, who said:
“There has been a lot of piggy-backing by the Russian state on the activities of Russian organised cybercriminal groups and scooping up the fruits of their activities.”
What can be inferred from his statement? Mr Inkster seems to suggest that the Russian security services are working hand-in-hand with Russian cyber-hackers.
He continues to assert this, saying:
“…the FSB know where these guys are and they know where they can find them.”
I doubt we’d be able to find out who’s telling the truth though.
Russia’s cyber-hacking history
Russia’s cyber-hacking is renowned; they’ve reportedly acknowledged significant financial rewards from the use of their high technical standards and equipment. An expert on the Russian security services, Andrei Soldatov, notes that Russian military operations are strategically placed in Ukraine, enabling them to use local proxies and private contractors, and it “allows them to deny responsibility” when they’re being accused of international cyber-hacking.
The FSB are apparently known for the aggressive tactics, and according to Mark Galeotti, another expert on the Russian security services, who states:
“…the FSB are secret policemen who are used to operating with absolute impunity and they freely use heavy-handed tactics like blackmail.”
More evidence to show the FSB’s alleged guilt is reportedly evidenced by Dmitry Artimovich, who was convicted of hacking offences in 2013. Mr Artimovich says that the FSB made multiple attempts to recruit him for hacking operations. Mr Artimovich shared print screens of these proposals with The Associated Press.
We can only speculate and theorise…
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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