SAN FRANCISCO—Yevgeniy Nikulin, 30, an alleged Russian hacker was extradited overnight before appearing in a San Francisco federal court on Friday, March 30. The court appearance came after a diplomatic battle between Russia and the United States. Nikulin is facing charges stemming from events in 2012, when he allegedly stole 117 million LinkedIn passwords in conjunction with other felony offenses. He was charged in a 2016 indictment with illegally accessing computers belonging to LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Formspring, each of which has its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay area.
The indictment further alleges that the defendant accessed the computers without authorization and that he obtained information from the computers. According to the indictment, the defendant also caused damage to computers belonging to a LinkedIn employee and to Formspring by transmitting a program, information, code, or command. Nikulin is alleged to have used the credentials of LinkedIn and Formspring employees without their knowledge or authorization in connection with the computer intrusions. The indictment charges that Nikulin engaged in a conspiracy with unnamed co-conspirators to traffic stolen Formspring user credentials. He was taken into custody by authorities on October 5, 2016. Nikulin pleaded not guilty to all of the charges including computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft. The suspect’s attorney claims that the U.S. Department of Justice is aggressively pursuing this case based on political motivations.
“Computer hacking is not just a crime, it is a direct threat to the security and privacy of Americans,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “In this case, the defendant, a Russian national, is accused of breaking into the computer system of several important American companies using stolen identities, and potentially gaining access to the personal information of millions of Americans. This is deeply troubling behavior once again emanating from Russia. We will not tolerate criminal cyber-attacks and will make it a priority to investigate and prosecute these crimes, regardless of the country where they originate.
I want to thank our partners in the Czech Republic for their cooperation in the extradition process, and I also want to thank the FBI, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Kane and Matt Parella for their hard work. The Department of Justice will continue our work to defend the safety, property, and privacy of the American people from the threat of foreign hackers.”
“The FBI will not allow international cyber criminals to operate with impunity,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. “Nikulin allegedly targeted three Bay Area companies through cyber-attacks, and will now face prosecution in the United States. This extradition is a success for U.S. law enforcement and our partners overseas.”
Nikulin is charged with three counts of computer intrusion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C); two counts of intentional transmission of information, code, or command causing damage to a protected computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A); two counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1); one count of trafficking in unauthorized access devices, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(2); and one count of conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.
Written By Seymone Khaleghi and Donald Roberts