The normally clandestine shadow war between U.S. and Russian intelligence agencies spilled into a California courtroom Wednesday in the form of Karim Baratov, an unassuming 22-year-old man making his first U.S. court appearance on charges that he worked as a freelance hacker for Moscow’s cyber spy masters.

Baratov, a Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan, was arrested in Canada last March, and he arrived in the Bay Area late Tuesday in the custody of U.S. Marshals after waiving an extradition battle. In a 47-count indictment unsealed earlier this year, he and three Russian nationals are accused of conspiracy, computer intrusion, and economic espionage for a massive 2014 data breach at Yahoo that compromised account information on 500 million users.

The American government describes the hack as an intelligence-gathering operation run by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB.

One current and one former FSB officer are also charged in the case, as is an alleged Russian hacker who was already wanted in two states for conventional cybercrime.  But Baratov, who had the misfortune to live in Canada instead of Russia, is likely the only defendant that will ever confront American justice – a solitary stand-in for Moscow’s state-run cyber espionage rings, in a time of growing political and diplomatic tension…

Source: Daily Beast

Why it’s on our radar: This is just another example that Russian cyber-espionage operations are real, that they are formidable, and that they are very much likely to endure in the 2018 election cycle and beyond, much as they were present during the last election cycle. It also serves as a reminder that clandestine Russian espionage as it relates to attempts to disrupt the American democratic system is not new.