Four senior cybersecurity officials in Russia have been arrested on suspicion of being American spies leaking information back to the US.
The latest alleged spy to be arrested was Sergei Mikhailov, who is accused of using his senior position in the Federal Security Service (FSB) to leak classified information to US intelligence agencies.
According to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Mikhailov is thought to have tipped off US officials about Vladimir Fomenko and his server rental company ‘King Servers’, which was identified last September as an ‘information nexus’ that was used by hackers suspected of working for Russian state security in cyber attacks.
One of the other men to be arrested was Dmitry Dokuchaev, a colleague of Mikhailov’s at the FSB.
If the claims about Mikahilov and Dokuchaev are true, it would mean that Washington DC had a spy in the heart of Russian national security.
It was also announced that Ruslan Stoyanov, a manager at Kapersky Lab, was arrested in December.
Kapersky Lab is Russia’s biggest cybersecurity firm and, as head of its computer incidents investigations unit, Stoyanov was in charge of investigating hacking attacks.
Respected Russian paper Kommersant said that both Mikhailov and Stoyanov are facing charges of treason.
Maria Shirokova, a spokeswoman for Kapersky, said in a statement that Stoyanov’s arrest had ‘nothing to do with Kapersky Lab and its operations’. She said the company has no details of the charges faced by Stoyanov, adding that the investigation pre-dates his time with Kapersky.
Stoyanov’s previous jobs, according to LinkedIn, include a position at the Cyber Crime Unit at the Russian interior ministry in the early 2000s.
The name of the fourth suspect is currently unknown.
All four men are now facing charges of treason.
This follows a tense few months in which the US accused Russia of interfering with its presidential election to help Donald Trump win – a claim the Kremlin fervently rejects.
US and EU officials have also accused Russia of hacking other Western institutions, and raised concerns that the Kremlin may try to influence this year’s elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
It is not known whether the arrests are somehow connected to these recent allegations.
Andrei Soldatov, who has studied the internet and Russian security services for more than a decade, called the arrest of Stoyanov ‘unprecedented’.
‘It destroys a system that has been 20 years in the making,’ he said. ‘The system of relations between intelligence agencies and companies like Kapersky. Intelligence agencies used to ask for Kapersky’s advice, and this is how informal ties were built.
‘This romance is clearly over.’