Security

US Names Arrested Russian As Alleged LinkedIn, Dropbox Hacker

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Yevigeniy Nikulin, a 29-year-old Moscow resident, allegedly conspired with two others to hack LinkedIn, Dropbox and other sites

US authorities have unsealed a grand jury indictment naming 29-year-old Russian citizen Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin, of Moscow, as one of three alleged culprits behind hacks on LinkedIn, Dropbox and others that breached millions of passwords.

Last week Czech police announced they had arrested the man, whose identity wasn’t disclosed at the time, on 5 October as he scanned the menu in a Prague restaurant.

Phishing attack

crime victimThe indictment alleges Nikulin used malware to illegally access the computer of a LinkedIn employee, which he then used to steal user credentials.

It also accuses him of hacking Dropbox and a now-defunct social network called Formspring and stealing user names, passwords and email addresses, then conspiring with two other unnamed individuals to sell the data.

The counts listed include computer intrusion and damage, identity theft, trafficking in unauthorised access devices and conspiracy, adding up to more than 30 years in prison, although maximum sentences are rarely handed out.

Nikulin was arrested about 12 hours after Interpol reported he was in Prague, Czech police said last week.

Officers took him into custody while he was sitting in a restaurant with his girlfriend near the hotel where they had been staying, police said. He had been driving around Prague in a luxury automobile, and his Instagram account reportedly shows a taste for gold Rolexes.

Extradition

The suspect collapsed after being arrested and was taken to hospital, then returned to police custody, where he remains, awaiting an extradition hearing.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement it is looking to block Nikulin’s extradition, saying the case shows the US is “hunting for Russian citizens across the world”.

LinkedIn stated it appreciated the FBI’s work to “pursue those responsible for the 2012 breach of LinkedIn member information”.

A hacker using the pseudonym peace_of_mind told journalists the 2012 breaches had been carried out by Russians, who made use of them privately for years before selling them publicly earlier this year, with the intent of retiring on the proceeds.

Dropbox forced password resets in August after it found 68 million sets of user credentials posted online that it believes were stolen in 2012.

The LinkedIn breach involved more than 100 million sets of credentials, and after the data was sold publicly in May led to further hacks on individuals who had reused their passwords elsewhere.

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