The Justice Department is announcing today the indictments of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the heist of 500 million Yahoo user accounts in 2014, marking the first U.S. criminal cyber charges against Russian government officials, the Washington Post reports. The indictments name two members of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and two hackers hired by the Russians. The charges include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage. The indictments are part of the largest hacking case brought by the United States.
The charges are not related to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Still, the move reflects the U.S. government’s increasing desire to hold foreign governments accountable for malicious acts in cyberspace. The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but officials have said that taking steps such as charges and imposing sanctions can have a deterrent effect. People sometimes slip up and travel to a country that is able and willing to transfer them to the U.S. for prosecution. Yahoo reported the 2014 hack last fall, in what was considered the largest data breach in history. The firm later disclosed another intrusion affecting more than 1 billion user accounts in 2013, far surpassing the 2014 event. Officials have not determined whether there is a link between the two.