The US government on Wednesday formally charged two Russian intelligence officers and two criminal hackers, accusing them of stealing information from at least 500 million Yahoo accounts.
Another, Alexey Belan, is on the list of the FBI's most wanted cyber criminals and has been indicted multiple times in the U.S. It's not clear whether he or the other two defendants who remain at large, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, will ever step foot in an American courtroom since there's no extradition treaty with Russian Federation.
As for the two other hackers, one is named as Alexsey Belan, who is on the FBI's most-wanted list for cybercrime.
"We would hope they respect our criminal justice system, and respect these charges and what they need to do", Head of National Security at the U.S. Justice Department Mary McCord said.
"When nation states support this kind of activity it's not a fair fight".
"If you illegally target USA citizens or American companies, you will be identified and located", Abbate said during a press conference.
Russian journalists, USA and Russian government officials, employees of the financial sector and other companies were among those targeted of the hacking, officials said.
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One of the alleged hackers is also believed to have searched the breached accounts for credit card and gift card credentials and hijacked some 30 million accounts to conduct spam campaigns.
We're here for one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history.
The charges stem from a hack that took place in 2014, in which more than 500 million Yahoo account credentials were stolen.
In 2014, Yahoo's security team uncovered evidence that a hacker backed by an unnamed foreign government had pried into user accounts, but executives "failed to act sufficiently" on that knowledge, according to the results of an internal investigation. The indictment unequivocally shows the attacks on Yahoo were state-sponsored.
Though the D.O.J. did not say the hacking was related to the firm belief among the US intelligence community that Russian hackers meddled in the 2016 presidential election, many Americans wondered what this new revelation meant for the ongoing investigation.
In one of the biggest hacking operations ever, cyber criminals targeted security, diplomatic, military personnel and journalists, for espionage and financial gain.