Russian Computer Experts Arrested for Treason

Two men were arrested on Wednesday, January 25 in December by Russia’s FSB on charges of treason. The men are Sergei Mikhailov, a senior officer of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and Ruslan Stoyanov, the head of computer incident response investigations at Kaspersky Lab, which makes antivirus programs. [Update: The arrest was just announced; it appears the men were arrested in December.]  Earlier, the firing of the director of the Center for Information Security, Andrei Gerasimov, was announced, reportedly related to an investigation into the agency’s cooperation with Kaspersky on criminal hacking cases. Moscow Times is now reporting that two more men have been arrested: Dmitry Dokuchaev, who worked in the same FSB unit as Mikhailov, and another whose name has not been released.

Kaspersky Labs says that Stoyanov’s arrest has nothing to do with his work at Kaspersky, but rather to Stoyanov’s work before he came to Kaspersky.

The FSB and the Kremlin have declined to comment. This is the article in the Russian-language Kommersant on which much of the early reporting is based. My Russian is rudimentary, and the automatic translation is not very good. It appears that most of the information in this article appears in the English-language articles.

The Russian government has not released information on why the charges were brought. Kommersant and Novaya Gazeta lean toward collaboration with the CIA. The Moscow Times says

the FSB believes Sergei Mikhailov tipped off U.S. officials to information about Vladimir Fomenko and his server rental company “King Servers,” which the American cybersecurity company ThreatConnect identified last September as “an information nexus” that was used by hackers suspected of working for Russian state security in cyberattacks.

Paul Rozenzweig, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Department of Homeland Security, assesses the arrests similarly and blasts the release of information in the US hacking investigation. His argument is plausible and chilling. Please read it.

I have seen speculation on Twitter that the arrests have to do with Ukrainian hacking, and the New York Times wistfully suggests that somehow these arrests may be a goodwill gesture to the United States. The argument against that is from Andrei Soldatov, who notes that the FSB-Kaspersky relationship has been fostered for 20 years, and the arrests will seriously damage it.

The story is still developing, but at present the most plausible explanation is that the men are suspected of working with the CIA. That would be consistent with a charge of treason, for which the death penalty is possible, and the timing.

 

Photo of Lefortovo Prison, where the men are said to be held.

2 comments

  1. Kurt Brindley · January 26

    Reblogged this on Cyber Strategies for a World at War.

    Like

  2. The Blog Fodder · January 29

    Way too much information out there. The Steele dossier, too. The FSB will clean up on informants, even if they have to arrest 5 to 1 real one, they will get them all. They already started on the Steele document, I see. Died in the back seat of his car?

    Like

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