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Reports: Second FSB Agent Arrested; Possible Links To U.S. Election Hacking

The FSB's headquarters in Moscow (file photo)

Russian media have reported that another Federal Security Service (FSB) officer has been arrested on treason charges in a case that may be linked to cyberattacks targeting the U.S. presidential election campaign.

The reports by Rambler News Service on January 26 come a day after the Kommersant newspaper reported that a senior officer of the cyberintelligence department of the FSB -- Russia’s lead security agency -- had been arrested.

Kommersant said Sergei Mikhailov, deputy chief of the FSB's Center for Information Security, had been arrested in December on treason charges.

Another Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, on January 26 corroborated the Kommersant report.

Novaya Gazeta quoted unidentified sources as saying Mikhailov was arrested during a meeting with other FSB officers in Moscow, and was taken from the room with a sack over his head.

Also arrested in December was a manager of the renowned Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab.

Investigation Chief Arrested

Kaspersky Lab confirmed the arrest to RFE/RL, identifying the manager as Ruslan Stoyanov and saying he headed the company’s investigation unit.

A list on the website LinkedIn indicates that Stoyanov started working at Kaspersky Lab in 2012 and that his previous jobs included a position at the Russian Interior Ministry’s cybercrime unit in the early 2000s.

On January 26, Rambler News and REN-TV both said a second FSB officer had also been arrested last month, and identified him as Major Dmitry Dokuchayev.

Dokuchayev headed another unit within the Center for Information Security and reportedly served under Mikhailov.

News of the arrests comes as U.S. intelligence agencies continue investigating the degree to which Russian government-backed hackers penetrated Internet servers and e-mail accounts belonging to political-party officials, first and foremost the Democratic Party.

In one of his final orders as president, Barack Obama publicly endorsed the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community that Moscow was behind the hacking and named nine top Russian officials and entities associated with the FSB and the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU.

Earlier in January, the top U.S. intelligence official told a Senate committee that the hacking campaign constituted unprecedented meddling into the U.S. electoral process.

No Official FSB Comment

Tsargrad TV, a Russian news site run by a Kremlin-loyal businessman, said Mikhailov had links to a Russian hacker group known as Shaltai-Boltai.

That hacker group has published troves of e-mails of prominent Russian officials and businesspeople that it claims to have obtained in cyberattacks.

The FSB has not officially commented on the investigation.

Novaya Gazeta reported that that -- in addition to Mikhailov, Dokuchayev, and Stoyanov -- two other individuals have been arrested in connection with the investigation, one of them an FSB colleague of Mikhailov’s.

The newspaper quoted unidentified sources as saying that Mikhailov is suspected of providing U.S. intelligence with information about King Servers, a hosting service owned by Russian citizen Vladimir Fomenko.

King Servers was used as a platform by hackers who targeted state-election computer systems in Arizona and Illinois last year. Fomenko, who rents space on his servers, has denied any links to the perpetrators of the cyberattacks.

According to Novaya Gazeta, Fomenko rented server space to another Russian entrepreneur named Pavel Vrublevsky, who ran an electronic payment company called Chronopay and in 2013 was convicted of cyberattacks on Russian companies.

Mikhailov reportedly testified in court that he knew Vrublevsky and his talents well.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.