(CBS) — It was a nefarious partnership: two spies with Russia’s Federal Security Service — or FSB — joining two criminal hackers, who broke into the half-billion Yahoo accounts.
“The involvement and direction of FSB officers with law enforcement responsibilities makes this conduct that much more egregious,” Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mary McCord said at a news conference Wednesday.
The Russian spies used the criminal hackers to help gather intelligence, and the hackers had their own selfish motives, federal prosecutors said.
“The criminal hackers used this opportunity also to line their own pockets and for private financial gain,” McCord said.
The U.S. government says the hackers stole credit card and gift card information.
Melissa Ventrone, who heads the cyber-security group for the firm Thompson Coburn, says the Russian case shows how many of us are hacking targets.
“It’s their businesses, it’s where they shop at, it’s the local convenience store — these are the places that are being breached,” she says.
The four men face 47 criminal charges, in a case the Justice Department calls beyond the pale.
Ventrone urges online consumers to get smarter.
“Stop using the same password for every single account. When you do use passwords and you change them, don’t change it by one number, or one letter or one symbol,” she advises.
This is the first time the U.S. has ever filed cyber-criminal charges against Russian officials. Arresting the spies and putting them on trial will be difficult because the U.S. does not have an extradition agreement with Russia.
One of the hackers was arrested this week in Canada. The other is in Russia, officials say.