Russia arrests cyber security expert for treason

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The founder of one of Russia’s largest cyber security companies has been arrested on suspicion of treason and will be in a notorious prison run by the security services for the next two months, a court in Moscow said on Wednesday.

The charges against Ilya Sachkov, founder of Group-IB, are classified and the details of them were not immediately clear. The state news agency Tass quoted an anonymous source as saying that Sachkov refused to provide secret information to foreign intelligence services.

Group-IB, which specializes in preventing cybercrime and ransomware, confirmed that the law enforcement launched an attack on its officials yesterday but said it did not know the reason for Sachkov’s arrest.

“Grupp-IB’s team is convinced of the innocence of the company’s CEO and his business integrity,” the company said in a statement.

Dmitry Volkov, founder of Group-IB, will take on Sachkov’s leadership responsibilities, it added.

RIA Novosti, another state-run news channel, reported that investigators searched Group-IB’s offices in St. Petersburg and other unspecified premises on Wednesday.

The company, headquartered in Singapore, is an official partner of Interpol and Europol and has hosted senior international law enforcement officials at its conferences in Moscow. Its private clients include BP, Microsoft, DHL and several large Russian state-owned companies.

Group-IB said it will continue to operate as usual. “The decentralized infrastructure of Group-IB enables us to keep our customers’ data secure, maintain business operations and work without interruption in our offices in Russia and around the world,” says the company.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Wednesday that Sakharov’s arrest “had nothing to do with the business and investment climate in our country,” according to Interfax.

“He was in a gray area because of the industry he worked in. The secret services believe that cyber security is part of their territory. So either he crossed a line, or he passed someone’s interests, says a person who has worked with Sakharov.

Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB, has arrested several prominent researchers, cyber security officials and a former journalist under treason, who face up to 20 years in prison.

Beliefs about the various counter-intelligence-related statues, which have significantly expanded the definitions of state secrets and potentially qualify almost all contacts with foreign organizations as treason, have increased fivefold since 2009, according to Mediazona, an independent news site covering Russia’s criminal justice system.

In 2019, a court sentenced a former top FSB cybersecurity official to 22 years in treason for providing information to the United States. A former head of Kaspersky Lab, Russia’s leading cybersecurity company, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in the same case, the details of which were not released.

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