Moscow cyber chiefs arrested: reports
FSB headquarters in Moscow. Source: Flickr
The arrest of Sergei Mikhailov, deputy head of the FSB security agency’s Centre for Information Security, and his lieutenant was reported in a series of leaks over several days.
“Sergei Mikhailov and his deputy, Dmitry Dokuchayev, are accused of betraying their oath and working with the CIA,” Interfax reported.
According to the state-dominated Russian media, Mikhailov was theatrically arrested at an earlier date during a gathering of the FSB leadership when a bag was put over his head and he was marched out of the room, accused of treason.
The FSB emerged from the old KGB.
His deputy, Dokuchayev, is believed to be a well-known hacker, using the online name Forb, and began working for the FSB some years ago to evade jail on hacking charges.
Ruslan Stoyanov of cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab was also reportedly arrested several weeks ago.
None of the reports could be independently verified.
Interfax said four people had been arrested and another eight were potential witnesses.
Dokuchayev and Mikhailov could face treason charges, which carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. The treason charge means any trial would be held in secret.
Coming after US intelligence accused Russia of interfering in the US election and hacking the Democratic Party’s servers, has sparked speculation about whether the arrests are linked to the allegations from Washington.
US intelligence agencies alleged in earlier this month that President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the election in favour of Donald Trump, partly using a group called Fancy Bear to hack emails related to the Democratic National Committee.
“It’s a murky world in which actors are both predator and prey,” argued Leonid Bershidsky of the newspaper Vedomosti. “The Kremlin enjoys access to brilliant and unscrupulous people; the downside, of course, is that they may be hard to control.”
Investigators are also reportedly examining money that Stoyanov, the hacking specialist at Kaspersky, is accused of receiving from overseas. A source told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper that the case had been filed under article 275 of the Russian criminal code, which allowed the authorities to prosecute an individual suspected of aiding a foreign state or organisation.
“Stoyanov was involved in every big arrest of cybercriminals in Russia in past years,” a source told Forbes.