A Kazakhstan-born Canadian man pleaded guilty to identity theft and other charges in a San Francisco federal courtroom. The man, Karim Baratov, participated in a coordinated hack of email accounts hosted by Google and Yahoo!
Federal authorities filed charges against Baratov and three other men associated with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The hack compromised more than 500 million Yahoo accounts. Federal prosecutors allege that FSB agents recruited and paid hackers to breach the US-based service provider. According to prosecutors, the hackers targeted Russian officials, executives and other high-profile users.
Federal authorities allege that the group took significant steps to conceal their actions. They include leasing servers in a number of different locations, stealing user account data, creating false accounts and using virtual private networks. The group also created manual “cookies” designed to fool Yahoo! servers into allowing access to user accounts.
Baratov sent the FSB agents at least 8 compromised Google passwords over the course of a year. He also admitted to illegally accessing more than 11,000 email accounts for a number of customers since 2010. Baratov had advertised his hacking services on a Russian-language hacking website. Last month, he pleaded guilty to eight counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. As part of his plea agreement, Baratov agreed to pay restitution to his victims and also faces a fine of up to $2.25 million. He will return to court for sentencing in February. Authorities have indicted three other participants in the ring, but they are believed to be in Russia.
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Photo Credit: KDE Espana, via Flickr.com