Infosec outfit Group-IB's website was defaced in weeks before CEO's arrest over high treason claims

Co-founder takes over after Ilya Sachkov reportedly nabbed

Threat intelligence firm Group-IB has said it is "confident in the innocence of the company's CEO and his business integrity" after he was arrested on suspicion of treason – two weeks after the company's homepage was defaced by vandals.

Ilya Sachkov was reportedly arrested after Russian law enforcement agencies raided Group-IB's corporate offices in Moscow yesterday, according to state-owned Russian newswire TASS.

"He does not admit guilt of high treason, which caused reputational and national damage to the interests of Russia, as well as the fact that he collaborated with intelligence agencies of foreign states," the news agency quoted an anonymous "security forces" spokesman as saying.

In a statement, the company confirmed the law enforcement raids at its Moscow offices, saying "the reason for the search was not yet clear." It added that customer support was continuing despite the raid.

Lefortovo district court is reported to have ordered the CEO's incarceration for two months, according to Reuters, which added that high treason is punishable in Russia with up to 20 years in prison. It also cited information from the RIA "news" agency, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Russia Today (RT) West-facing propaganda channel.

Group-IB is a cybercrime firm that was founded in Russia, but has its legal base in Singapore. It crosses the divide between researching pure information security (as firms such as Kaspersky does) and investigating online criminality. The business has assisted Interpol and other law enforcement investigations leading to the arrest of suspected cybercriminals.

"Experts of the company are involved in more than 80 per cent of high-profile investigations in the field of high-tech cybercrimes in Russia and CIS," according to a profile of Sachkov on a think tank-owned website called "Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace".

The CEO was also profiled in Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30" feature in 2016 and was an associate professor at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, named on the Group-IB website as the Bauman Technical University. He has reportedly been pictured alongside Russian leader Vladimir Putin several times over the last few years.

So far there is little in the public domain about the reasons for his arrest, however; Russia is not a country where the rule of law means much and whatever charges are brought against him may not relate to the true reasons for his arrest.

Intriguingly, persons unknown defaced Group-IB's website in the runup to the arrest of the company's founder. The Internet Archive recorded a blank homepage featuring only the words "don't full me" [sic] in the morning of 14 September, with normal service being restored by lunchtime that day. We have asked the company for more information and will update this article if it responds.

Sachkov's interim replacement is set to be his co-founder Dmitry Volkov.

"All of Group-IB's divisions will continue operating as usual," concluded the company's public statement.

Sachkov will now spend at least the next two months incarcerated while his case is investigated. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he knew no details on the case, but denied it was linked to a recent banking embezzlement scandal. When asked if he thought the arrest would make foreign firms think twice about doing business in Russia he replied: "No, obviously, no." ®

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