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U.S. Charges Russian Hacker With Stealing LinkedIn Data

A photo from the Instagram account of Yevgeny Nikulin, a Russian hacker the United States has charged with stealing LinkedIn information.
A photo from the Instagram account of Yevgeny Nikulin, a Russian hacker the United States has charged with stealing LinkedIn information.

U.S. authorities have charged a Russian arrested in Prague earlier this month with hacking and stealing information from computers at LinkedIn and other U.S. companies.

The arrest of Yevgeny Nikulin on October 5 in the Czech capital prompted sharp protests from Moscow, which has sought to block the Czech Republic from extraditing him to the United States.

The arrest also comes amid an increasing focus on cyberattacks and cybercrimes, some of which U.S. authorities have blamed on governments like Russia and China.

Czech police announced the arrest of a Russian man on October 18, though it was unclear why they waited two weeks to release a statement.

The man wasn’t initially identified, though an RFE/RL investigation pinpointed his identity using his social media profiles, and the Russian Embassy later confirmed his arrest.

The U.S. Justice Department said on October 21 that a grand jury had indicted Nikulin on multiple charges, including computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.

Prosecutors alleged that Nikulin sent a program to a LinkedIn employee's computer, stole the employee's username and password, and used them to access the company's computers in 2012.

LinkedIn has linked Nikulin to the 2012 breach and said it resulted in more than 100 million of its users' passwords being compromised, prompting a massive password reset operation.

Nikulin was also accused of hacking into two other companies, Dropbox and Formspring, and conspiring to sell stolen user names, passwords, and e-mail addresses of Formspring customers.

The indictment said Nikulin had three unnamed co-conspirators, one of whom offered to sell the stolen Formspring user information for 5,500 euros (about $6,000).

Computer hacking and cybercrimes have come into sharp focus in recent months, particularly with the raucous U.S. presidential election under way. U.S. intelligence officials recently publicly accused Russia of hacking into the servers of the Democratic Party, an unprecedented incident.

Since that intrusion in the spring, internal e-mails highlighting the deliberations of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and other party officials have been regularly leaked to the public, mainly through WikiLeaks. That's led some U.S. officials to conclude Russia is seeking to influence the U.S. presidential election.

On October 21, meanwhile, a hacker group from China and Russia claimed responsibility for a massive cyberattack that caused outages on popular websites from the U.S. East Coast to Europe and Asia.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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