This morning cyber security sources informed us for the third time this week about email addresses and passwords being leaked from a large mail provider. After the Russian services Yandex.ru (one million leaked emails) and Mail.ru (4.5 million leaked emails), came Gmail’s turn – around five million emails were posted on a Russian platform.
According to publications about the Gmail leak, the data was published on a Russian forum that focuses on bitcoin issues – Bitcoin Security. The forum member who uploaded the database is nicknamed tvskit, and he was the first one to publish the data online in all three of the cases.
A short search on the above nickname on social networks revealed a 34-year old man by the name of Ivan Bragin, from the Perm administrative center in Russia. His VK and Twitter pages contain plenty of information regarding crypto-currencies, in addition to a tweet about the Gmail leak linked to the BTC forum. From his posts, it seems that he did not directly connect himself to the leaks, nor did he take credit for stealing the data. Moreover, the story he tells is about running into these email lists on the web, then deleting the passwords and publishing them ‘for the greater good’. It is a strange coincidence that all three lists were found by the same person.
Based on the fact that tvskit‘s real identity was so easy to find (no attempts to hide it from his side), combined with the fact that initially the account list was published without the passwords (“just in order for people to check if their address was on the list”), makes us doubt that he stole the data.
According to several cyber security sources that analyzed the database, some of the compromised mail accounts were either automatically registered or were not active in the past. Nevertheless, some users of the above providers did confirm the authenticity of the logins and passwords.
Yandex and Mail.ru denied any kind of breach of their databases, so the leading hypothesis of the accounts origin is that all three lists were collected over a long period of time, from different sources, maybe along with other, less “attractive” data, that was later sorted by email providers and published online. In addition, we should also consider that at least some of the addresses are fictitious or not valid. At this moment, it is difficult to specify the exact number of addresses with a valid password.
Relying on the information above, we believe that all three lists were obtained by the same person (not necessarily tvskit), who managed to get hold of some valid logins and passwords and then mixed them with non-valid or automatically created addresses to intensify the scale of the leak.