Russian media reported the arrests this week of three individuals suspected of treason, including a researcher employed by the nation’s leading cybersecurity firm and two employees of the former KGB.
Ruslan Stoyanov, the head of Kaspersky Lab’s computer incidents investigations unit, and Sergei Mikhailov, a senior official within the FSB’s Center of Information Security, were quietly arrested last month on charges of treason, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported Wednesday.
Mr. Stoyanov “is under investigation for a period predating his employment at Kaspersky Lab,” the security firm confirmed in a statement. He was hired by the company in 2012 after spending six years working for the Moscow Cyber Crime unit of the Russian Interior Ministry, according to his LinkedIn profile, where he hunted down hackers on behalf of the government, including cybercriminals subsequently convicted of causing millions of dollars in damages, Forbes reported Wednesday.
His arrest coincided with that of Mr. Mikhailov, who was apprehended by authorities in the middle of an FSB meeting last month and hauled away with a sack over his head, according to Russian media. Until then Mr. Mikhailov was considered the second-most senior figure in the Center for Information Security, an elite FSB unit that researchers have linked to cyberattacks launched last year against various U.S. political targets.
The case brought against the Kaspersky researcher and FSB official were filed in a secret military tribunal under Article 275 of the country’s constitution, which defines treason as “espionage, disclosure of state secrets, or any other assistance rendered to a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation.”
Conviction carries a maximum punishment of 20 years imprisonment.
A second FSB official, Major Dmitry Dokuchaev, was also arrested for treason last month in connection to the same case, Russian media reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources. He had reportedly served in the same FSB unit under Mr. Mikhailov, the privately-owned REN-TV reported.
Four people in all have been arrested in relation to the treason probe, according to the television network, including a person whose identity has yet to be disclosed.
The FSB did not respond when reached for comment by The New York Times this week with respect to the charges. Nonetheless, speculation surrounding the purpose of the probe have already emerged in the few days since reports of the arrests became public — among them a claim circulated by the Moscow Times this week that suggests Mr. Mikhailov may have notified U.S. investigators about a Russian company allegedly implicated in cyberattacks conducted last year against electoral systems in Arizona and Illinois.