DOJ Announces Unprecedented Charges Against Russian Officials

March 15, 2017 The U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal cyber charges against four people including two Russian intelligence officials on Wednesday in connection to a 2014 Yahoo hack. The massive cyber attack compromised the personal information of hundreds of millions of consumers. It is the first time the U.S. government has brought criminal cyber charges against the Russian government.

In the federal indictment, the Department of Justice alleged two Russian spies and two criminal hackers “protected, directed, facilitated, and paid” hackers to break into Yahoo’s systems in 2014, stealing the personal information of 500 million consumers. It is the largest hacking case ever filed by the U.S. government. The charges in the indictment include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage.

In October 2016, the United States government formally accused Russia of state-sponsored hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers and said that Moscow was attempting to “interfere” with the U.S. presidential election. In December, a CIA investigation confirmed that the Russian government ordered the DNC hack in July and the leaking of email documents in an apparent attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.

For decades, the United States, Russia, China, Israel and several other countries have routinely hacked adversary nations for the purpose of information gathering. Repeated cyber attacks on U.S. government and military websites, including the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, FBI and virtually every other federal agency evidence the continued struggle for cyber security officials to address threats to U.S. computer networks.

The DOJ indictments of two Russian spies in connection to the 2014 Yahoo hack are unrelated to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. However, the charges, the first of their kind, clearly demonstrate the U.S. government’s intentions to hold foreign governments accountable for malicious acts in cyberspace.

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