A Russian crime ring has pulled off the largest known theft of confidential Internet information, USA Today reported.

 

The cyber-ring has obtained 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses by using malicious code to steal databases from at least 420,000 websites.

 

Hold Security, based in Milwaukee, has been monitoring the gang for about seven months, thinking they were "run-of-the-mill" spammers, but realized recently that the operation was much larger.

 

Alex Holden, founder of the security firm, told CNNMoney.com that the hackers took information from smaller sites and "household names," but didn't breach any major email providers.

 

The scale of the operation is larger than last year's Target Corp. breach. Target had credit- and debit-card data stolen from 40 million accounts.

 

The good news for consumers is "they've ignored financial information almost completely," Holden said.

 

That's because the gang makes money by sending out spam for bogus products, so if you see strange messages being sent from your email or social media accounts, you might be among the people affected.

 

The New York Times, which broke the story Tuesday, has the most complete account of the hack. 

 

Meanwhile, a new leaker has apparently stepped in for Edward Snowden to disclose secret government documents. According to this Newsweek story, two reporters from The Intercept released a report revealing that the government's top-secret database of terrorism suspects has doubled under President Barack Obama. The list now has about 680,000 names on it. The reporters, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, relied on a leaked classified document prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center.