Police in Russia have arrested a senior manager at anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab on charges relating to treason, according to a report from respected Russian daily Kommersant.
A spokesperson for the country’s leading cyber security firm this morning confirmed to AP that Ruslan Stoyanov was held last month.
Stoyanov, who headed up the Computer Incidents Investigations Team at Kaspersky, worked at the Russian Ministry of Interior’s Moscow Cyber Crime Unit before joining the company in 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile page.
“This case is not related to Kaspersky Lab. Ruslan Stoyanov is under investigation for a period predating his employment at Kaspersky Lab,” a spokesperson for the firm said.
“We do not possess details of the investigation. The work of Kaspersky Lab’s Computer Incidents Investigation Team is unaffected by these developments.”
Citing unnamed sources close to the FSB, Kommersant said the arrest could be linked to an investigation into Sergei Mikhailov, a deputy chief of the FSB’s information security centre, who was also detained in December.
The sources claim the probe relates to payments made by foreign businesses to Stoyanov, and his alleged links to Mikhailov, according to Kommersant.
While further details of Stoyanov’s arrest and the charges he faces remain unclear, Russian investigative journalist and security services expert Andrei Soldatov told AP his detention is unprecedented, and could destroy relations between firms such as Kaspersky and the Russian intelligence agencies.
Noting that Russian government departments have sought advice from Kaspersky on cybersecurity issues over recent years, Soldatov said the incident could break informal ties that had taken decades to build up.
Both the FSB and the Kremlin have so far refused to comment on reports of Stoyanov’s arrest.
Since joining Kaspersky in 2012, Stoyanov has worked on a number of major cybercrime investigations conducted by the Russian authorities, including a probe into the activities of the so-called “Lurk” gang, whose members stole up to $45 million (€42 million) from banks and other companies over a five-year period.
In a blog post describing the investigation into the gang, Stoyanov wrote: “[E]ither because of an unshakable confidence in their own impunity or because of apathy, day-by-day the cybercriminals were paying less attention to the anonymity of their actions.
“They became especially careless when cashing money: according to our incident analysis, during the last stage of their activity, the cybercriminals used just a few shell companies to deposit the stolen money.”
Stoyanov is also said to have been instrumental in bringing down a gang of Russian hackers that extorted as much as $4 million from UK bookmakers and casino sites in a string of distributed denial-of-service attacks over a decade ago.
While the charges against Stoyanov may be politically motivated, his arrest could signal a deterioration of relations between the Russian government and companies such as Kaspersky, which has often attracted suspicion from western intelligence agencies over its close ties to the Kremlin.