Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:22PM
Acting Assistant US Attorney General Mary McCord speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department March 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
Acting Assistant US Attorney General Mary McCord speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department March 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

The United States has indicted two Russian intelligence officers over a cyberattack, the first such move against Russian officials by Washington.

The Department of Justice leveled charges against two Russian security services officers and two hackers on Wednesday over a massive breach of Yahoo user accounts.  

According to AFP, the data breach compromised 500 million Yahoo accounts which is in one of the largest cyberattacks in history.

The indictment links Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) to the hacking operation which began in 2014 with the alleged goals of espionage and financial benefits.

At a news conference in Washington, the acting assistant attorney general for national security, Mary McCord said the FSB officers were identified as 33-year-old Dmitry Dokuchaev and 43-year-old Igor Sushchin.    

"Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, both FSB officers, protected, directed, facilitated and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the United States and elsewhere," McCord told reporters.  

The indictment accused the FSB officers of hiring hackers Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to accomplish the task, which continued until late 2016.

McCord also said the hack targeted the email accounts of Russian and US officials, Russian journalists, and employees of financial services and other businesses.

“The department of justice is continuing to send a powerful message that we will not allow individuals, groups, nation-states, or a combination of them to compromise the privacy of our citizens, the economic interests of our companies or the security of our country,” she stated.

This is the first time the US government criminally charges Russian officials for cyber offenses. The unprecedented cyberattack on Yahoo was disclosed last September and was believed to be state-sponsored.

Meanwhile, Yahoo on Wednesday warned users of potentially malicious activity on their accounts between 2015 and 2016.

“The investigation has identified user accounts for which we believe forged cookies were taken or used. Yahoo is in the process of notifying all potentially affected account holders. Yahoo has invalidated the forged cookies so they cannot be used again," a Yahoo spokeswoman said.