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Threat Intelligence

10/19/2016
05:50 PM
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Alleged Hacker Behind 2012 LinkedIn Breach Nabbed In Prague

Czech judge to decide on US extradition request.

The alleged hacker behind a 2012 cyberattack on LinkedIn who is thought to have exposed some 117 million usernames and passwords has been arrested in Prague, in the Czech Republic.

The Czech police announced the arrest Tuesday without specifying when the incident had actually taken place. In a statement, the Czech authorities noted they had worked with the FBI in making the arrest.

The statement did not name the individual who was arrested, but described him as a Russian citizen suspected of hacking targets in the US. The statement alluded to the individual driving around in a luxury car with his girlfriend.

The arrest took place in a hotel in the heart of the city with the suspect offering no resistance. The Czech police statement said the alleged hacker was so surprised by his arrest that he collapsed shortly later and had to be briefly hospitalized for further treatment.

An uncorroborated video posted on Heavy.com Wednesday purported to show Czech authorities making the arrest. The face of the youthful-looking, camouflage jacket-clad individual who is arrested is digitally blurred and so is that of a woman seated next to him at a table in what appears to be a restaurant.

A judge in the Municipal Court in Prague will now decide whether the individual will be extradited to the US, the statement said.

A FBI spokesperson confirmed the arrest Wednesday but offered no other details. “Unfortunately, the underlying case remains under seal, and we don’t expect it to be unsealed in the near future,” the spokeperson said.

LinkedIn confirmed that the man arrested in Prague is believed to be one of those responsible for the 2012 data breach.

"Following the 2012 breach of LinkedIn member information, we have remained actively involved with the FBI's case to pursue those responsible,” a LinkedIn spokesperson said. “We are thankful for the hard work and dedication of the FBI in its efforts to locate and capture the parties believed to be responsible for this criminal activity."

With no information officially available on the arrested individual, it is unclear if the person in custody is the hacker using the name “Peace,” who earlier this year put the stolen LinkedIn usernames and passwords up for sale on The Real Deal underground marketplace for about $2,200.

In comments to Motherboard at the time, Peace had boasted the data was stolen from LinkedIn in 2012.

When news of the alleged Russian hacker’s arrest first broke this week, there was some speculation that authorities had managed to track down the individual responsible for the attack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) website.

However, an DOJ official on background said there is no connection between this week’s arrest in Prague and the attack on the DNC website.

The arrest marks another success for the FBI in getting foreign law enforcement authorities to nab hackers who would have otherwise been out of reach for them. But it is also sure to ratchet up tensions between the US and Russia on the issue of cybersecurity and hacking attacks.

In recent year,s the US has accused Russia of backing cyberattackers who have broken into various government and private sector networks including those at the White House and the US State Department. More recently the Obama Administration,formally named Russia as the actor behind the recent attacks on the DNC and of attempting to tamper with US electronic voting systems. The government has said it is mulling a proportional response to the alleged Russian cyber activity.

For its part, Russian authorities have denied involvement in the attacks and have previously described arrests of its citizens, such as the one that took place this week, as illegal.

The Russian Embassy in Prague has apparently asked Czech authorities that the suspect be released to Russian custody, the New York Times reported. Russia is sure to fight all attempts to extradite the hacker to the US as well.

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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