Russia throws founder of infosec biz Group-IB in the clink for treason

Sachkov faces 14-year stretch after 'unreasonably rushed trial'

A Russian court has sentenced Ilya Sachkov, the founder of security research house Group-IB, to 14 years in a maximum-security prison after finding the executive guilty of high treason.

Sachkov, who has been in detention since his arrest in September 2021, was also fined 500,000 rubles (about $5,550). His trial was held behind closed doors because it apparently involved the discussion classified materials.

"Ilya spent almost two years in pre-trial detention, awaiting a trial that only started on July 6, 2023," Group-IB said in a statement on Sachkov's sentencing. He co-founded the network security firm in 2003, and regular readers will recognize the biz from our pages.

"During his detainment, he was denied the right to communicate — no calls, no letters — with the outside world for the first few months, he was deprived of any visits from family and friends," the statement continued. 

Group-IB maintains "full confidence in Ilya's innocence," and described the Moscow court proceedings as an "unreasonably rushed trial," even by Russian standards.

"Ultimately, Ilya has been denied a chance for an impartial trial," the statement added. "All the materials of the case are kept classified, and all hearings were held in complete secrecy with no public scrutiny. As a result, we might never know the pretext for his conviction."

While the details of the charges against Sachkov remain top secret, he reportedly was accused of handing over information to the FBI about the Kremlin-backed cyber-espionage team APT28, also known as Fancy Bear, and its reported interference in Western elections. Sachkov has always denied the charges.

We can imagine Russia's leaders being unhappy with details of one of their military intelligence units being passed to the Feds in America, if that is indeed what happened.

The prosecution originally asked the court to sentence Sachkov for 18 years, Russian news agency TASS reported.

Sachkov's attorneys will appeal the verdict, according to a statement by FACCT, a Russian security firm that was spun out from Group-IB last year in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"The FACCT company noted that the employees steadfastly accepted the incident, they continue to support Ilya and hope that he will be released and rehabilitated," the FACCT statement said.

The sentencing follows news of another FACCT exec, and former Group-IB security analyst, being detained in Kazakhstan, with both the US and Russia's governments seeking his extradition to their home turf. 

Nikita Kislitsin, a FACCT employee and former editor of Hacker magazine, was detained on June 22 at the request of the US, according to a statement by his employer. He was later placed on the Kremlin's wanted list.

The US extradition request seems to be related to earlier charges against Kislitsin, who is accused of ransacking social networking service Formspring in 2012. It's claimed he stole usernames, email addresses, and passwords, and then tried to sell the database for €5,000 ($,5,530), according to an indictment [PDF] against him in 2014. ®

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