A top Russian cyberintelligence officer who US officials say lead last year’s election hacking was arrested this week. Sergei Mikhailov, a senior member of the Federal Security Service (FSB), is charged with treason. For now, one Russian newspaper reports indicate that the arrest isn’t related to election hacking. According to an article in Kommersant, the arrest stems from Mikhailov’s work on criminal hacking investigations. However, Moscow Times reports the senior officer was arrested on suspicion of leaking information to US intelligence officials.
This news follows reports earlier this week that Kaspersky Labs security researcher Ruslan Stoyanov was also arrested for treason in December. Details are also scarce on that arrest, but the security firm says the incident isn’t related to Stoyanov’s work there. We may never know the exact reasons for the arrests, but the events are certainly notable at a time when tensions are high between the US and Russia over hacks of the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
The New York Times also notes that the director of the Center for Information Security, Andrei Gerasimov, was fired earlier this month. That news was also reported by Kommersant which explained that the termination followed an investigation into the agency’s work with Kasperky on criminal hacking cases. Gerasimov is also the FSB’s deputy director for counterintelligence. The arrests and firing were strangely public for a country and organization that often prides itself on secrecy.