Two of the defendants named are Russian FSB officers, and the other two are criminal hackers.
Though the US government has previously charged individual Russian hackers with cybercrime - as well as hackers directly linked to the Chinese and Iranian governments - this is the first criminal case to name as defendants sitting members of the FSB for hacking charges, the Justice Department said.
Among the 6,500 Yahoo users the FSB agents targeted with this scheme were targets that were "of predictable interest", including journalists, government officials in both the U.S. and Russia, and the staff of "a prominent Russian cybersecurity company".
"We are certainly seeing more and more use by nation states of criminal hackers", said Mary B. McCord, acting assistant attorney general for national security.
The FSB officers also allowed the criminal hackers to use the email cache for the officers' and the hackers' financial gain, through spamming and other operations, officials said.
In other instances, according to the indictment, the hackers "sought access to accounts of employees of commercial entities, including executives and other managers of a prominent Russian investment banking firm...; a French transportation company; US financial services and private equity firms; a Swiss bitcoin wallet and banking firm; and a USA airline".
In a more disturbing turn of events, McCord says the two FSB officers were with a unit that is the FBI's point of contact on cybercrime.
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Along with Dokuchaev, at least three other men reportedly were arrested in the treason case, including Col. Sergei Mikhailov, the deputy head of the FSB's Information Security Center.
Yahoo announced last December that a 2013 hack was even bigger than the 2014 hack that got information on 500 million Yahoo accounts.
The hacking of the 500 million Yahoo accounts was in many ways a by-product of the information on specific individuals the Russian government was looking for.
"We believe that this is one of the priorities in our time", he said.
Nearly all nations engage in some type of cyber espionage but Russian Federation stands apart in that rather than using intelligence and military staff, it outsources the work to criminal hackers from its thriving cyber underground. Prosecutors said they received no response to their requests to the Russian government to turn over Belan to U.S. authorities.
With access to the technology, the hackers spied on the contents of more than 6,500 individual users, according to the indictment. Baratov was arrested Tuesday in Canada.
US officials said Baratov did not succeed in hacking the Gmail accounts. Washington's charges against Russian citizens over the hacking attack on Yahoo are used for defaming Moscow's image in the United States, Russian MP Leonid Slutsky said on Thursday.
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"The indictment unequivocally shows the attacks on Yahoo were state-sponsored", Chris Madsen, an assistant general counsel for security and law enforcement at Yahoo, said in a statement.
Belan is not an unknown name to computer crime-fighting authorities, having previously been listed in the FBO's Cyber Crime Most Wanted list, and having been previously detained in a European country in 2013 before escaping back to Russian Federation before extradition. In November or December of that year, according to the indictment, he copied and exported a backup of Yahoo's User Database.
"All my friends know him too, and none of them know anything about his life", Le said.
The Justice Department's assertion that the FSB was directing the hacking likely provides political and legal cover for Yahoo, which saw its multibillion-dollar deal with Verizon teeter after it was forced to warn consumers that their private information might have been exposed.
If you have found the latest round of allegations accusing Russians of hacking Yahoo confusing, you would be forgiven.
The FBI agent did not say whether the government or Yahoo discovered the 2014 breach, and he did not reveal more details about the initial attack on the unnamed Yahoo employee.
The hack resulted in a leak of thousands of emails and attachments from the DNC, published by WikiLeaks.
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I'm not going to hold a banner saying "don't speak ill about me". "He said that we did it twice while he was out there (batting)". The series is locked at 1-1 with the top 2 sides grinding it out for supremacy on hard tracks.
The U.S. intelligence community released a report January 6 that said those hacks had been conducted with the knowledge of the Kremlin and with the intent of swaying the campaign in favor of Donald Trump.