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Russian spies and criminal hackers have been charged for massive Yahoo hacking scandal

The spies wanted information, but the hackers were after something a little more simple.

By Kate Wagner

In news that will genuinely shock a lot of folks, people actually still have Yahoo accounts.

In (debatably) bigger news, the U.S government has charged two Russian spies and two criminal hackers with orchestrating one of the biggest thefts of consumer data in history after the group pilfered through over 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014.

This is the first time the U.S government has criminally charged Russian spies for cyber offences.

Acting assistant US Attorney-General Mary McCord said the spies were interested in the information stored in the accounts, which included diplomats, journalists, Russian officials and politicians critical of Kremlin, while the hackers were focused on “lining their pockets”.

They allegedly searched through the accounts for gift cards and credit card numbers while using the hacked accounts to launch a massive spam campaign. One of the hackers also reportedly manipulated Yahoo’s search engine to direct those researching erectile dysfunction to an internet pharmacy that paid him commission.

The Justice Department released an indictment of 47 charges, including charges of conspiracy, computer fraud and abuse, economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identify theft.

In September last year, Yahoo announced that its unprecedented breach was a state sponsored attack, and the company has said this indictment “unequivocally shows” that to be true.

Despite the current furore over Russian spy services allegedly hacking Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential election, these charges are unrelated.

The indictment named the FSB (the successor to the KGB) officers involved as Dmitry Dokuchaev and his superior, Igor Sushchin, who are both currently in Russia.

According to Russian news agency Interfax, Dokuchaev was arrested for treason in December.

Alexsey Belan, who is on FBI’s most wanted cyber criminals list, was named as one of the suspected hackers and was arrested in Europe in June 2013. However he escaped to Russia before he could be extradited to the U.S.

Karim Baratov, who was born in Kazakhstan but has Canadian citizenship, was also named in the indictment.

In a statement, White House spokesman Michael Anton said the charges "are part of a broad effort across the Government to defend the United States against cyber attacks and cyber-related crimes".