By David Shepardson
(Reuters) – A Canadian accused of helping Russian intelligence agents break into email accounts as part of a massive 2014 data breach at Yahoo was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday and ordered to pay a $250,000 (£188,570) fine.
Karim Baratov, who pleaded guilty in November 2017 in San Francisco, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Baratov, a Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan, was arrested in Canada in March 2017 at the request of U.S. prosecutors. He later waived his right to fight a request for his extradition to the United States.
Lawyers for Baratov in a court filing had urged a sentence of 45 months in prison, while prosecutors had sought 94 months.
“This case is about a young man, younger than most of the defendants in hacking cases throughout this country, who hacked emails, one at a time, for $100 a hack,” the defence lawyers wrote in a May 19 court filing.
Verizon Communications Inc <VZ.N>, the largest U.S. wireless operator, acquired most of Yahoo Inc’s assets in June 2017.
The U.S. Justice Department announced charges in March 2017 against Baratov and three others, including two officers in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), for their roles in the 2014 hacking of 500 million Yahoo accounts. Baratov is the only one of the four that has been arrested. Yahoo in 2016 said cyber thieves may have stolen names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and encrypted passwords.
When FSB officers learned that a target had a non-Yahoo webmail account, including through information obtained from the Yahoo hack, they worked with Baratov, who was paid to break into at least 80 email accounts, prosecutors said, including numerous Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O> Gmail accounts.
Federal prosecutors said in a court filing “the targeted victims were of interest to Russian intelligence” and included “prominent leaders in the commercial industries and senior government officials (and their counsellors) of Russia and countries bordering Russia.”
Prosecutors said FSB officers Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin directed and paid hackers to obtain information and used Alexsey Belan, who is among the FBI’s most-wanted cyber criminals, to breach Yahoo.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown)