LIVE UPDATES: A top manager of the Kaspersky Laboratory and an officer of the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) Center for Information were arrested and charged with treason, possibly for receiving payment from a middleman related to a foreign organization.
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Stoyanov’s case is apparently related to an FSB officer also arrested at the time.
“This case does not concern the company’s activity, we don’t have details. Ruslan Stoyanov led the department to investigate cybercrimes, but that doesn’t mean that he was a member of top management. He has worked inthe company since 2013.”
Before that, Stoyanov worked in Department K, the Interior Ministry or police department that investigates cybercrimes.
She said they had no other information.
Kaspersky, which has always maintained high cooperation with the Russian government and intelligence, is not going to risk that relationship — required for them to go on doing business at home and abroad — over one employee.
If the case really is about something before 2013, it would not be related to the hacking of the US Democratic National Committee or the Trump dossier or anything or the sort, which came later; there is no evidence of such a connection.
But we don’t know that the current investigation about money paid through an intermediary takes place in the time period of 2013, or whether it involves relationships Stoyanov had in the Interior Ministry’s Department K before he came to work for Kaspersky.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
According to unofficial reports Kommersant has received about problems at the Center for Information Security (TsIB), Andrei Gerasimov, another division chief, could be leaving his job. Gerasimov, a protege of FSB Lt. Gen. Boris Moroshnikov, is also on the advisory board of the League for Internet Safety founded by Konstantin Malofeyev, a conservative businessman who has funded nationalist and Russian Orthodox causes as well as the Russia-backed separatists in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Sources told Kommersant that Gerasimov’s resignation may be connected to an investigation by the FSB’s Department of Internal Security regarding one of Gerasimov’s deputies. According to sources, among the issues being examined are the Center’s relationships with private companies which cooperated with the Center’s divisions to conduct forensic studies of cyber crimes.
Eugene Kaspersky, founder of the world-renowned company, has been described by Western media as having close relations with Russian intelligence. Kaspersky Lab was the first to publicly identify the Stuxnet virus launched by the US against Iran. Kommersant says that Kaspersky has worked closely since 2013 with the FSB and Interior Ministry on analysis of cyber crimes and has provided expert witness in cyber crime cases. Many Russia-watchers would say his cooperation began long before 2013 because he was educated at a KGB-sponsored cryptography school and then worked for Russian military intelligence (the GRU). Bloomberg has reported that Kaspersky scrutinizes Russia’s bugs less than other countries, a claim Kaspersky himself has strenuosly denied.
Before 2006, Stoyanov worked in the Moscow Interior Ministry’s Department K, which stands for “cyber crime,” in the division of “special technical activities”. Other employees of his department at Kaspersky are also from Department K, as well as the Investigative Committee.
“Ruslan Stoyanov is known as a man who is able to organize informal contacts. I think that after this incident, the Kaspersky Laboratory will think about the need to distance itself from the law-enforcement agencies and build more formal relations with the FSB”.
When we see both a Kaspersky employee and an FSB officer arrested right at the same time, and the mention of “Department K” in the Interior Ministry, we have to wonder if these arrests have anything remotely to do with the hack of US political institutions or the Trump dossier.
Of course, the two men were arrested in December, and the dossier with all its details was released in January, although the contents of the dossier were known long before that to both journalists and intelligence agents.
Would a man like Stoyanov, who is described to “essentially manage all the Internet business in the country” have a good idea which government offices, or private companies, or skilled hackers, might be involved in the complex operation of the hack of the DNC and other American targets?
Such an operation would be kept very closely secret, but if any element of it failed, or became controversial, and then people disagreed and some were removed, that’s when talk could start.
That’s among the central premises of the Trump dossier: that Sergei Ivanov, President Vladimir Putin’s close associate, former KGB officer and former chief of staff, disagreed with the heavy-handed nature of the hacking and influence operation, and was concerned about blowback — so the story goes. And others prevailed with Putin to keep the operation going, so Ivanov was fired or “his resignation accepted.” (The one problem with that theory is that despite leaving his high-power job as chief of staff, Ivanov stayed on the Security Council. He also appears to have been still needed, and was also clearly dispatched to the Financial Times to give an interview about how the Kremlin really was not so close to Trump or so enthusiastic — distancing themselves from their man two weeks before the election.)
The Trump dossier claims Russian computer programmers are coerced into working for the state’s goals through blackmail, and there is some evidence of this through testimony of emigres. The dossier also mentions one successful FSB operation, where a Russian IT operator in a state enterprise was able to target a foreigner director of the company, and through him reach others. The FSB is portrayed in the dossier as having gathered kompromat [compromising materials] on both Trump and Hillary Clinton, although other high offices in the presidential administration, the parliament, the Interior Ministry [the police] are also referenced.
Krutikov lists all the supposed sources of the dossier and finds it improbable that any spy or spies in the West acting unofficially could have obtained that high and wide an access. That is indeed a point to marvel about in this dossier.
But since some of the aspects of the report fell apart upon close examination, or the people in the report vigorously denied their involvement and seemed to have alibis, Krutikov’s article is rather about how the Western intelligence agencies discredited themselves by buying this “fake.” His headline promises an article of remorse or anger about “discreditation” of the valiant Russian organs, but it’s really about discrediting Western spies.
Steele is a “decoy duck”, says Krutikov, and whether this was planned, leaked to the press, or invented by editors who had read too many spy stories wasn’t important. Says Krutikov:
“Such a figure [as Steele] does not look very convincing and is hardly dangerous But on the whole, there is no certainty that such a personage exists at all, at least in those existential categories that are ascribed to him. Moreover, it is hard to imagine, that this is one person, and not an abstract compilation of knowledge.”
So looking at the dossier, reasons Krutikov, we would have to imagine that all five sources were still accessible by the report’s compilers, even from the days of the USSR. “But that isn’t possible by dint of the fact that the Russian elite has changed since then at a minimum three times, practically from the foundation up.”
Krutikov analyzes the five sources, and notes about source B, who was said to have kompromat on Hillary Clinton. This source is said to have contacted a certain “Department K” which as we know exists in the Interior Ministry. As Andrei Soldatov pointed out, the dossier mentions “Department K of the FSB,” but that’s a mix-up.
Again, if true, the high-level nature of the sources and the alleged nature of the information — involving the very candidates of the US election, one of whom became president — mean that Russian defense was penetrated. Maybe it wasn’t, but if it were, we would expect to see heads roll.
We’d also expect to see lesser figures hung out to dry, in keeping with every scandal in Russia. There have been arrests of some Russian hackers in the West, and we don’t know if they are related to the DNC hack or not. And the arrests announced today may not be the droids we are looking for. But if true, there will be arrests in Russia — for treason — and we need to be on the look-out for them.
Even if the dossier is fake, unless Russian intelligence is fully behind it themselves, they can’t be sure that in fact Steele’s fact-finders really did have some Russian sources and they need to worry that their people have been turned. Then Russian counter-intelligence would believe they were penetrated even if they weren’t — a whole other aspect of the dossier which would indicate its fabrication was done in the West.
— Updated to add identifying information for Malofeyev, Kaspersky and Russian Association of Electronic Communications.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick