Russia Arrests Cyber-Security Expert on Treason Charge

Russian security services have detained 35-year-old cyber-security tycoon Ilya Sachkov on charges of treason. The company headed by Mr Sachkov, Group-IB is involved in combatting cyber-attacks and has worked closely with many international clients including Interpol, the international policing agency.

A Moscow court confirmed that it had ordered Mr Sachkov to be detained for a period of two months but refused to divulge further information relating to the charges. The Russian state news agency, Tass reported that Mr Sachkov had denied passing on secret information to foreign intelligence services.

Mr Sachkov started his company when he was just 17 years of age and was given an award by President Putin three years ago for his work on detecting computer crime in the country. This would seem like a remarkable fall from grace for a top cyber-security expert and many are sceptical that the timing of these charges relates to his outspoken comments regarding the perception that Russia is not doing all it can to combat cyber-crime.

In a speech to a cyber security conference recently, he said

“No Russian state organ . . . is responding to this at all . . . believe me, this affects the image of Russian companies that export information security. What’s going on in the country if the whole world is telling you there’s criminality?”

He also highlighted the head of the Evil Corp hacking group, Maksim Yakubets, who is accused by the US of masterminding a cyber-crime spree which spanned the last decade, happily driving the streets of Moscow with an upmarket sportscar bearing the personalised number plate reading “THIEF”. According to the US Treasury, Maksim Yakubets “provides direct assistance to the Russian Government’s malicious cyber-efforts.”

Many Western analysts believe that this legal action against Ilya Sachkov amounts to a doubling-down by Russia on the issue of cyber-crime and represents a move away from cooperation with entities such as Interpol to a much more individual and isolationist approach. It is also believed that this may see a clampdown on other cyber-security efforts in the country.