Treason charges against Russian cyber experts linked to seven-year-old accusation

Treason charges brought in December against two Russian state security officers and a cyber-security expert in Moscow relate to allegations made by a Russian businessman seven years ago, according to the businessman and a source connected with the investigation.

They said the arrests concern allegations that the suspects passed secrets to U.S. firm Verisign and other unidentified American companies, which in turn shared them with U.S. intelligence agencies.

Ruslan Stoyanov, head of the computer incidents investigation team at Russian cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab, was arrested and charged with treason in December along with two officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), since identified as Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchayev.

Authorities have given no public explanation for the arrests, which, as Reuters has previously reported, caused a chill in cooperation between Russians and U.S. researchers in the cyber crime-fighting field.

The source connected to the investigation said the arrests were a result of accusations first made in 2010 by Pavel Vrublevsky, a Russian businessman and founder of ChronoPay, an online payments company. Vrublevsky told Reuters he had also learned that the arrests were a response to his allegations: that Stoyanov and Mikhailov had passed secrets on to American firms.

A representative for Stoyanov’s defense team declined to comment for this article. Reuters was unable to locate representatives for Mikhailov or Dokuchayev.

Verisign denies that it received information that was secret. The firm’s iDefense unit compiled dossiers on cyber crime for clients including private firms and government agencies that include U.S. intelligence services, but it says its research did not contain classified information.

Its employees have said they knew Stoyanov, a former Russian police cyber crime official who later had a career as a consultant.

“Nothing like the arrangement as described by Pavel Vrublevsky ever took place,” said Kimberly Zenz, a former analyst at Verisign’s iDefense unit who knows Stoyanov.

Verisign Vice President Joshua Ray declined to comment on Stoyanov specifically, but said his company acquired information in unclassified ways and does not believe its reports to government agencies and other customers included state secrets.

Stoyanov’s employer, Kaspersky, declined to comment, but referred back to an earlier statement in which it said the charges against Stoyanov related to a period before he joined the company in 2012.

Russian authorities, including the FSB, have declined to comment on the case. The Kremlin has said only that President Vladimir Putin is aware of reports about it. Reuters received no reply to requests for comment from the FSB and Kremlin for this story.

Read full story…