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Kremlin, Hackers Working Hand-In-Hand, Shows Yahoo Cyber Indictment

Kremlin, Hackers Working Hand-In-Hand, Shows Yahoo Cyber Indictment
The clearest details yet on what some U.S. officials say is a symbiotic relationship between Moscow's security services and private Russian hackers was provided by Wednesday's indictments in the United States of four people in a 2014 cyber attack on Yahoo Inc.
Allegedly working hand-in-hand with them to crack 500 million Yahoo user accounts, the indictment charged two officers of the FSB, Russia's Federal Security Service, and two hackers.
The Kremlin employs criminal hackers for its geostrategic purposes, U.S. authorities and cyber security specialists have long said. Freedom from legal troubles for the hackers and deniability to Moscow is offered by the arrangement, they say.
Employing criminal hackers helps "complement Kremlin intentions and provide plausible deniability for the Russian state," a U.S. intelligence official as uoted by the media as saying.
Cyber security professionals and government officials say that by buying tools from them or recruiting them to help find other criminal hackers,, the United States sometimes engages with criminal hackers as well.
The United States and its allies were force to be far more wary about alerting Moscow to criminal hackers because of the intermingling of espionage and cyber crime in Russia, said Milan Patel, a former FBI cyber agent and now managing director for cyber defense at K2 Intelligence.
"Magically those guys would disappear off the battlefield and most likely end up working for the Russian government," Patel said of the names shared by Washington.
No official comment on the charges in the Yahoo case has been made by the Russian government so far.
One of the FSB agents, Dmitry Dokuchaev, was arrested by Russian authorities in December and charged with treason, Russian news accounts stressed.
Directing him to use the Yahoo data to crack emails on other systems and paying him a bounty when he succeeded, the indictment charges Dokuchaev with having acted as a handler for a hacker named Karim Baratov.
While Dokuchaev remains in Russia, according to the Toronto police, Baratov is in custody in Canada.
The U.S. intelligence agencies have alleged that to influence the vote in favor of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin's government hacked the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the most recent of the charges coincide with mounting tensions between these two entities.
In addition, possible links between Russian figures and associates of President Trump is being investigated by congressional committees.
The indictments showed "the close and mutually beneficial ties between the cyber underworld and Russia’s government and security services," Senator John Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement.
The case "underscores the complexity and the urgency" of the committee's investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election, he said.
There were three rules for cooperation between the Russian government and criminal hackers, said James Lewis, a former State Department official and now a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
He said that private hackers know to share their profits with authorities and to avoid attacking Russian-language sites. "Rule Number Three (is), if we ask you to do us a favor, do it."

Christopher J. Mitchell

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