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Canadian Accused Of Helping Russian Intelligence Agents Sentenced To Prison For 5 Years

Karim Baratov, who pleaded guilty in November 2017 in San Francisco, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

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Yahoo in 2016 said cyberthieves might have stolen names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and encrypted passwords.
The U.S. Justice Department announced charges in March 2017 against Baratov and three others, including two officers for their roles in the 2014 hacking of 500 million Yahoo accounts. Pixabay.
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A Canadian accused of helping Russian intelligence agents break into email accounts as part of a massive 2014 data breach at Yahoo was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.

Karim Baratov, who pleaded guilty in November 2017 in San Francisco, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Baratov, a Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan, was arrested in Canada in March 2017 at the request of U.S. prosecutors. He later waived his right to fight a request for his extradition to the United States.

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Karim Baratov, who pleaded guilty in November 2017 in San Francisco, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Pixabay

Lawyers for Baratov in a court filing had urged a sentence of 45 months in prison, while prosecutors had sought 94 months.

“This case is about a young man, younger than most of the defendants in hacking cases throughout this country, who hacked emails, one at a time, for $100 a hack,” the defense lawyers wrote in a May 19 court filing.

Verizon Communications Inc., the largest U.S. wireless operator, acquired most of Yahoo’s assets in June 2017.

The U.S. Justice Department announced charges in March 2017 against Baratov and three others, including two officers in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), for their roles in the 2014 hacking of 500 million Yahoo accounts. Baratov is the only one of the four who has been arrested. Yahoo in 2016 said cyberthieves might have stolen names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and encrypted passwords.

Gmail targets

When FSB officers learned that a target had a non-Yahoo webmail account, including through information obtained from the Yahoo hack, they worked with Baratov, who was paid to break into at least 80 email accounts, prosecutors said, including numerous Alphabet Inc. Gmail accounts.

Read More: AI Outwits Doctors at Detecting Skin Cancer

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing “the targeted victims were of interest to Russian intelligence” and included “prominent leaders in the commercial industries and senior government officials (and their counselors) of Russia and countries bordering Russia.”

Prosecutors said FSB officers Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin directed and paid hackers to obtain information and used Alexsey Belan, who is among the FBI’s most-wanted cybercriminals, to breach Yahoo. (VOA)

 

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U.S. Government Warns People Against China-Linked Hacking Group

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Cloudhopper
Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of the cybersecurity firm FireEye, gestures during a presentation about the APT33 hacking group, which his firm suspects are Iranian government-aligned hackers, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. VOA

The U.S. government warned Wednesday that a hacking group widely known as cloudhopper, which Western cybersecurity firms have linked to the Chinese government, has launched attacks on technology service providers in a campaign to steal data from their clients.

The Department of Homeland issued a technical alert for cloudhopper, which it said was engaged in cyber espionage and theft of intellectual property, after experts with two prominent U.S. cybersecurity companies warned earlier this week that Chinese hacking activity has surged amid the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly denied claims by Western cybersecurity firms that it supports hacking.

cloudhopper
Russia, North Korea and Iran are the most active in hacking financial institutions, while China is the most active in cyber espionage. Wikimedia Commons

Homeland Security

Homeland Security released the information to support U.S. companies in responding to attacks by the group, which is targeting information technology, energy, health care, communications and manufacturing firms.

“These cyber threat actors are still active and we strongly encourage our partners in government and industry to work together to defend against this threat,” DHS official Christopher Krebs said in a statement.

The reported increase in Chinese hacking follows what cybersecurity firms have described as a lull in such attacks prompted by a 2015 agreement between Chinese President Xi Jinping and former U.S. President Barrack Obama to curb cyber-enabled economic theft.

“I can tell you now unfortunately the Chinese are back,” Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer of U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said Tuesday at a security conference in Washington.

cloudhopper
A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture. VOA

“We’ve seen a huge pickup in activity over the past year and a half. Nowadays they are the most predominant threat actors we see threatening institutions all over this country and Western Europe,” he said.

Analysts with FireEye, another U.S. cybersecurity firm, said that some of the Chinese hacking groups it tracks have become more active in recent months.

Advice to US firms

Wednesday’s alert provided advice on how U.S. firms can prevent, identify and remediate attacks by cloudhopper, which is also known as Red Leaves and APT10.

Cloudhopper
The picture shows a warning sign for “cyber threats ahead”.

The hacking group has largely targeted firms known as managed service providers, which supply telecommunications, technology and other services to business around the globe.

Also Read: Pakistan Fears Economic Turmoil, Re-thinks ‘Silk Road’ Project with China

Managed service providers, or MSPs, are attractive targets because their networks provide routes for hackers to access sensitive systems of their many clients, said Ben Read, a senior intelligence manager with FireEye.

“We’ve seen this group route malware through an MSP network to other targets,” Read said. (VOA)