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U.S. Justice Department charges two Russian spies and two hackers in Yahoo breach

Why it matters to you

The U.S. is trying to hold those responsible for the Yahoo hack accountable, but it's likely only one of the four charged will see court time here.

The U.S. Department of Justice will charge two Russian spies  and two hackers with targeting Yahoo and breaching more than 500 million users’ accounts, The Washington Post reports. Yahoo had previously accused “state-sponsored” hackers of carrying out the attack.

A source within the department said the charges will amount to the largest hacking case ever brought by the U.S. government. These charges include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft, and economic espionage.

The two spies have been named by The Washington Post as Igor Sushchin and Dmitry Dokuchaev, who both work for FSB, the Russian equivalent of the FBI’s Cyber Division investigating cybercrimes.

Dokuchaev, who used the pseudonym “Forb”, was actually arrested by Russian authorities in December for treason over reportedly handing information to the CIA. He allegedly agreed to carry out work for the FSB to avoid prosecution. Sushchin is believed to be his senior in the FSB.

More: Yahoo knew about its huge email hack two years ago

As for the two other hackers, one is named as Alexsey Belan, who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list for cybercrime. He remains in Russia and has been charged twice before by the U.S. The second hacker is Karim Baratov, who was arrested on Tuesday in Canada.

While the U.S. may decide to charge the four Russians, it’s unlikely that all four would ever be brought to court here with the exception of Baratov. The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia. The charges are intended as a deterrent.

This lack of agreement has protected many alleged Russian hackers in various cases from being prosecuted but there have been cases of Russians traveling to other countries where there is indeed an extradition treaty with the U.S.

The Yahoo hack was disclosed late in 2016 but it took place in 2014. It was considered one of the largest breaches in history until the company was forced to disclose yet another breach from 2013 where 1 billion accounts were compromised. The blunders ultimately led to Yahoo’s sale price to Verizon being slashed.

It’s unknown if the 2013 and 2014 hacks are related or were carried out by the same culprits.