28.2.17

Russian Treason Charges Go Back Seven Years

Reuters is reporting the treason charges brought against Russia’ FSB intelligence service officers Sergei Mikhailov and his deputy Dmitry Dokuchayev, as well as senior Kaspersky Lab employee Ruslan Stoyanov, are tied to allegations made by a Russian businessman seven years ago. A source connected to the investigation told Reuters the arrests are the result of accusations first made in 2010 by Pavel Vrublevsky, a Russian businessman and founder of ChronoPay, an online payments company, who accused Stoyanov and Mikhailov of passing state secrets to American firms, which in turn provided that information to U.S. intelligence agencies.

The Cipher Take: Ruslan Soyanov, a former Russian cybercrime law enforcement officer who moved to the private sector, likely worked alongside many American cybersecurity firms tracking cybercriminal groups in Eastern Europe throughout his career. Whether he passed Russian government secrets, allegedly obtained from Mikhailov, to American firms is unconfirmed, but the charges brought against Soyanov and the two FSB officials have further chilled already limited cooperation between American firms and Russian cybersecurity officials. It is unclear why the accusations seven years later led to arrests now, but they come on the tail of the U.S. Intelligence Community accusing Russian-sponsored groups of hacking the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to sway the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It is possible Russian authorities are using old cases as a way of charging individuals currently suspected of recent cyber crimes. The arrests could also create fear among the Russian cyber community that would stop them from sharing threat information with American firms. This could be part of a broader tactic by Russia to blur the lines between criminal and government activity.

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