Security & Fraud

Russian Cybersecurity Experts Reduce Cooperation With The West

It seems as though the working relationship and cooperation between cybersecurity experts in Russia and the U.S. has cooled.

U.S. authorities and industry sources told Fortune that Russian cybersecurity researchers have scaled back their cooperation with Western contacts since the arrest of Ruslan Stoyanov, head of Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab’s computer incidents investigations unit, in December for treason.

In a statement on its website posted last month, Kaspersky Lab said:

“The case against this employee does not involve Kaspersky Lab. The employee, who is head of the computer incidents investigation team, is under investigation for a period predating his employment at Kaspersky Lab. We do not possess details of the investigation. The work of Kaspersky Lab’s computer incidents investigation team is unaffected by these developments.”

In January, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported that Stoyanov was arrested alongside two Russian FSB Information Security Centre officers, Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchayev. Stoyanov allegedly received money from foreign companies, and the case will be filed under a criminal code specifically for those suspected of aiding a foreign state or organization.

“Treason charges are by no means rare, so it is hard to know at this stage what is involved,” Mark Galeotti, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations specializing in Russian security affairs, told Business Insider at the time. “But simply the suspicion of passing information to foreigners for cash or carelessly might be enough.”

Since the arrest took place, several U.S. cybersecurity experts told Reuters that communications with Russian counterparts have been significantly diminished, either due to Russian contacts no longer replying or because experts felt it was better not to have contact for now.

“Everybody has clammed up,” John Bambenek, a manager of threat research at Fidelis Cybersecurity, noted.

Though charges have yet to be filed in Stoyanov’s case, the ramifications of the arrest make it clear that “even an informal information-sharing relationship with trusted Russian intelligence and law enforcement officers might be considered treason,” explained Vitali Kremez, director of research at U.S. security firm Flashpoint.

A senior U.S. law enforcement official said that the arrest has sent a shiver down everyone’s spine and has also slowed down the progress that has been made in the U.S. and Russia working together to arrest suspects accused of cybercrime globally.

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