In October 2016, a Russian-born hacker was arrested in Prague in a law enforcement effort collaborating with the FBI. The hacker is accused of being the perpetrator behind the LinkedIn breach of 2012. A Czech court has ruled that the citizen can be extradited to the United States or Russia, where he faces separate charges.
Russian-born national Yevgeniy Nikulin is alleged to be behind the comprehensive LinkedIn breach in 2012, which saw the compromise of information belonging to some 100 million LinkedIn users. 30-year old Nikulin was arrested at a central Prague hotel, following a ‘red notice’ alert by international law enforcement agency Interpol. The FBI revealed that the accused stood “suspected of conducting criminal activities against US interests.”
For its part, LinkedIn released a statement at the time, thanking the FBI for its efforts to locate and apprehend the cybercriminal behind the breach. “Following the 2012 breach of LinkedIn member information, we have remained actively involved with the FBI’s case to pursue those responsible,” the enterprise networking platform said.
While the United States sought his extradition, Russia, too, has sought Nikulin’s extradition while claiming to repudiate the extradition request by the United States.
Now, a Czech court has ruled that Nikulin can be extradited to the United States, to face hacking charges including that of LinkedIn, or Russia, where he faces a lesser charge of cyber theft. This leaves the hacker in a heightened game of diplomatic tug-of-war between the United States and Russia.
“Both (case) documents are very, very sufficient for reasonable suspicion that (the offences) took place and that there is reason to press charges,” stated Prague Municipal Court judge Jaroslav Pytloun.
Lawyers for the accused have since filed a complaint challenging the extradition request of the United States. They will have up to three days to do the same against the Russian request, after Tuesday’s court ruling.
Nikulin was indicted by a US federal grand jury last October on suspicion of hacking not only LinkedIn, but Dropbox and Formspring in 2012, as well. Over in Russia, a Moscow court issued a warrant for his arrest in November 2016, for allegedly stealing $3,450 of ‘Webmoney’ in 2009.
Questions are being asked about why Russian authorities did not press charges for his 2009 misdemeanors while he was in Russia. Perhaps notably, the Obama administration explicitly accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential elections by stealing emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), three days after Nikulin’s arrest.
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