4 Russian Cybersecurity Professionals Charged with ‘Treason on Behalf of the US’

February 1, 2017
Sergei Mikhailov, an FSB officer and staff member of the Center for Information Security, accused of "treason on behalf of the US". Photo via Novaya Gazeta

LIVE UPDATES: Ivan Pavlov, a Moscow human rights lawyer, announced to day that one of the 4 cybersecurity professionals arrested last month is his client, and the alleged hackers are charged with “treason on behalf of the US”.

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Kaspersky Lab Employee, 3 FSB Agents Said to Leak Information about Hacking to US, Charged with ‘Treason’

A former employee of Kaspersky Laboratory, which makes anti-virus and other security software products, and three employees of the Federal Security Service (FSB)’s Department of Information Security have been charged with “treason in favor of the US,” Interfax reported.

Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer and head of the Team 9 organization of lawyers told Interfax that Sergei Mikhailov, Dmitry Dokuchayev and Ruslan Stoyanov were charged with “state treason in favor of the US.”

Pavlov did not specify which of the three indicated was his client.

“I don’t know about the rest, but my client does not admit he’s guilty.’

No details were yet available about how the US ties into this case, and whether it is related to the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which the US government attributes to Russian intelligence, or to the Trump kompromat dossier, which references information provided by a number of Russian sources.

Pavlov added that he did not see any information in the case file about a supposed fourth man, Vladimir Anikeyev, said to be the head of Shaltai-Boltai, a hackers’ group that gained fame for breaking into Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s Twitter account and email, and leaking emails from Vladislav Surkov, an aide to President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin who has been a liaison to the Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine. Anikeyev was reported to have been arrested in November 2016 and charged with “unauthorized access of computer information committed by a group or with preliminary conspiracy or by an organized group”.

As we reported, news broke last week that 4 cybersecurity professionals were said to have leaked information to the US. Originally, the source for this claim was the ultra-nationalist web site, Tsargrad, which sourced the story from an FSB leaker.

The FSB officers take an oath of loyalty when they are employed, so they are accused of violating their oath.

A source told Interfax that four people have been arrested in the case, but up to eight people are implicated as co-conspirators. The remaining four may get off with only being witnesses against the others, said the source.

Another source said, “The themes of hacker attacks and treason are seemingly superimposed on each other in the case, but are not intertwined.”

Said the Interfax source (translation by The Interpreter): 

“Each one of the defendants was involved in his own work — some developed and applied schemes for cyberattacks, some cooperated with foreign intelligence. And these lines went parallel, as a result, and did not cross.”

All of the defendants are said to be known to each other and were in the IT information security field. “And the main person in this chain was not the most senior in position and title,” Pavlov told Interfax. 

Interfax reported that the CIA had no comment about the case.

The details of the case are still not known. Last week, Kommersant reported that the FSB was investigating whether the hackers had passed information  to an intermediary in a Russian information security company in exchange for cash.