Group-IB Chief Executive Officer Facing Treason Charge Following Arrest


By Staff Writer

Russian law enforcement agencies arrested the chief executive officer of a top cybersecurity company last week. Ilya Sachkov, the founder and CEO of Group-IB, was arrested on treason charges on September 27 while searches of Group-IB’s Russian offices were underway.

Group-IB’s business is detecting and preventing cyberattacks and online fraud. First established in Moscow 18 years ago, Group-IB now has a well-regarded track record and partners with Europol and Interpol.

In 2018, Group-IB moved its headquarters to Singapore. Many viewed the move as an attempt by Group-IB to put some distance between themselves and the Russian Government.

Sachkov has met Russian President Vladimir Putin several times. But he has also been critical of the Russian Government and active in targeting hackers, including Russia-based ones. The Group-IB CEO is the latest in a line of high-profile Russian figures charged with treason offences.

According to Russian state news agency TASS, the 35-year-old is accused of “working with foreign intelligence services and passed on cybersecurity data that constitutes a state secret.” The treason charge attracts a punishment of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Last week, Moscow’s Lefortovo district court ordered Sachkov be detained for two months.

“Group-IB’s team is confident in the innocence of the company’s CEO and his business integrity,” says the company in a statement.

“The decentralized infrastructure of Group-IB allows us to keep our customer’s data safe, maintain business operations and work without interruption across our offices in Russia and around the world.

“Group-IB’s communications team refrains from commenting on the charges brought and the circumstances of the criminal case due to the ongoing procedural activities.”

Group-IB now generates half its revenue from customers based outside Russia, including Barclays Bank. The cybersecurity business operates in some 60 countries. However, several top Russian banks and companies, including state-run ones, remain Group-IB customers.

But along the way, Group-IB’s focus on hackers has reportedly attracted some antipathy. Aside from assisting in breaking up several foreign cyberattacker syndicates, Group-IB helped expose Russian cyberattack outfit MoneyTaker.

Russian news outlets report law enforcement officials searched the company’s St Petersburg offices at the same time as the Moscow offices. Materials were observed been loaded into a vehicle by men at the Moscow offices.

The Kremlin acknowledged last week’s arrest but denied having specific details on the matter.

“We have seen this information in media reports. We have no details,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told TASS.

“Sachkov’s arrest has nothing to do with the business and investment climate in the country. You see that the accusations do not relate to the economy but to high treason.”

According to the Kremlin, Sachkov’s arrest should not deter Russian IT companies from working with either foreign or Russian state agencies.

But Mr Sachkov is one of Russia’s best-known IT industry figures. Observers say his arrest will concern many Russian IT professionals, undermining confidence in the industry and its independence.

Group-IB says chief technical officer Dmitry Volkov will assume the company’s leadership while Ilya Sachkov remains in custody.