Russia arrests cybersecurity expert for treason

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Kazan, Russia-July 9, 2020: Group-IB CEO and founder Ilya Sachkov speaks during a panel discussion with representatives of the IT industry at Popov Technopark in Innopolis.
enlarge / Kazan, Russia-July 9, 2020: Group-IB CEO and founder Ilya Sachkov speaks during a panel discussion with representatives of the IT industry at Popov Technopark in Innopolis.

Dmitry Astakhov | Getty Images

A Moscow court said on Wednesday that the founder of one of Russia’s largest cybersecurity companies was arrested on suspicion of treason and will be held in a notorious prison run by the security department in the next two months.

The allegations against Group-IB founder Ilya Sachkov are confidential, and the details are not yet known. The state news agency TASS quoted an anonymous source as saying that Sachikov denied providing secret information to foreign intelligence agencies.

Group-IB, which specializes in preventing cybercrime and ransomware, confirmed that law enforcement agencies raided its officials yesterday, but said it did not know why Sachkov was arrested.

The company said in a statement: “The Group-IB team has full confidence in the company’s CEO’s innocence and his business integrity.”

It added that Dmitry Volkov, co-founder of Group-IB, will assume Sachkov’s leadership responsibilities.

Another national news line, RIA Novosti, reported that investigators searched Group-IB’s St. Petersburg office and other unspecified locations on Wednesday.

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

Group-IB said it will continue normal operations. The company said: “Group-IB’s decentralized infrastructure allows us to ensure the security of customer data, maintain business operations and work without disrupting our offices in Russia and around the world.”

According to Interfax news agency, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Sachikov’s arrest “has nothing to do with our country’s business and investment environment.”

“Because of the industry he is in, he is in a gray area. The Secret Service believes that cybersecurity is part of their territory. Therefore, he has either crossed the line or violated someone’s interests,” said a person who has worked with Sachkov.

The Russian Federal Security Service is the successor agency of the KGB. In recent years, several famous scientists, cybersecurity officials and a former journalist have been arrested for treason. The maximum sentence is 20 years in prison.

According to Mediazona, an independent news site reporting on Russian criminal offences, since 2009, the number of convictions for various counterintelligence-related regulations has increased by 5 in the judicial system since 2009.

In 2019, a court sentenced a former FSB senior cybersecurity official to 22 years in prison for treason for transmitting information to the United States. A former executive of Kaspersky Lab, Russia’s top cybersecurity company, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in the same case. Details were not disclosed.

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