The hackers...

Rich cyber hacker with a secret life

Karim Baratov said his expulsion from school spurred him to success.
Karim Baratov said his expulsion from school spurred him to success.

TORONTO • When Karim Baratov said on Facebook he had paid off a mortgage and drove a BMW 7 series at high school, classmates thought he had rich parents.

The money may have come, instead, from a secret life as a cyber hacker, including work for Russia's top spy agency, according to charges filed on Wednesday.

He was an associate of Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Dmitry Dokuchaev, 33. The two worked together using spear phishing e-mail messages to trick recipients into giving them access to their accounts.

Some of the accounts led Baratov to identify users who also had Google e-mail accounts, which he hacked. He was paid a bounty for each victim's credentials that he passed on to Dokuchaev.

Baratov, 22, a Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan, is the only one of four people indicted for allegedly hacking Yahoo accounts for the Russian government who is likely to see trial.

He was arrested on Tuesday and appeared in court in Hamilton, Ontario. His bail hearing was pushed back to today because his legal counsel was not present.

In the indictment, Baratov's jet-black Mercedes Benz C54 and Aston Martin DBS were listed as assets that the United States is seeking to seize.

Baratov's Instagram account shows him posing with friends at a club, flexing his tattooed biceps at the gym and cuddling a grey cat.

He drew pencil drawings of cars, friends and a portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger, which he also posted to Instagram and Facebook. Pictures on his Facebook account also show a two-storey suburban home with Audis and a Porsche out front.

When he did talk about work, he would say he built websites for clients he found online, a friend who did not wish to be named said.

In a Feb 14 Facebook post, Baratov said his expulsion from school helped spur him to success.

"Get the most out of your life," he wrote. "Taking short-cuts doesn't mean short-cutting the end result."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2017, with the headline 'Rich cyber hacker with a secret life'. Print Edition | Subscribe