Following the arrests of four cyber experts in Russia on treason charges, several conflicting theories have emerged in the media, as observers speculate whether or not the case is connected to the hacking of U.S. political institutions and figures in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, the AP reported on Tuesday.
The report suggests that various Russian intelligence officers who are at odds with each other may be leaking contradictory details surrounding the arrests of the four suspects – Ruslan Stoyanov, head of cyber investigations at Kaspersky Lab; Col. Sergei Mikhailov, deputy head of the FSB's Information Security Center (the FSB is Russia's FBI); Maj. Dmitry Dokuchayev, a subordinate of Mikhailov and an unnamed fourth defendant who also worked for the FSB's cybercrime division.
According to AP, the conflicting stories are as follows:
- Security blogger Brian Krebs has reported that Mikhailov may have sent details about Russian cybercriminals to U.S. law enforcement and media over the years.
- Independent Russian news agency Interfax reported that Mikhailov and Dokuchayev conveyed confidential information to the CIA, though it did not cite its source.
- Russian news outlets LifeNews and Rosbalt, which have strong ties to the Kremlin, reported that the FBS officers gave information to the hacking group Humpty Dumpty as part of a criminal conspiracy to profit from blackmailing Russian political figures. The AP report notes that this theory "apparently seeks to draw attention away from the U.S. hack."
The Russian government has not publicly commented on the arrests.