TORONTO — A Canadian man of Kazakh origins who appeared to live a lavish lifestyle in southern Ontario was arrested as one of four suspects in a massive hack of Yahoo that targeted American government officials, Russian journalists opposed to the regime of President Vladimir Putin, and ordinary email users, authorities said Wednesday.
Karim Baratov, 22, was taken into custody in Ancaster, Ont., on Tuesday morning at the request of American officials, a police spokesman said.
“Our job was to locate and arrest one of the people,” Mark Pugash told The Canadian Press. “We did that safely without incident.”
The U.S. Department of Justice said a grand jury in California had indicted Baratov and three others — two of them allegedly officers of the Russian Federal Security Service — for computer hacking, economic espionage and other criminal offences.
According to the department, the four are alleged to have hacked into Yahoo’s systems and stolen information from more than 500 million user accounts.
“(They) then used some of that stolen information to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials, and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies,” the department alleged.
“One of the defendants also exploited his access to Yahoo’s network for his personal financial gain, by searching user communications for credit-card and gift-card account numbers.”
Baratov was arrested under the extradition act, and appeared in court in Hamilton Wednesday morning.
His case was put over until Friday afternoon, when he was expected to appear by video.
Mike Le, owner of All In Detailings in Mississauga, Ont., called Baratov an exotic car buff who had referenced doing some “computer geek stuff.” His client was popular and flashy but also reserved about anything personal, Le said.
“All my friends know him too, and none of them know anything about his life,” Le said. “He’s very secretive about his life.”
Le said he worked on an Aston Martin for Baratov, who he said frequently bought and sold expensive cars.
If convicted, American authorities said they wanted to seize a grey Aston Martin DBS with the licence plate “MR KARIM” and an unspecified amount of money in Baratov’s PayPal account for “Elite Space Corporation,” a copy of the indictment in the case shows.