Kazakhstan to extradite Russian cyber expert to Moscow despite US demands


Kazakhstan reportedly extradites prominent Russian cybersecurity expert to Moscow after refusing to send it to the United States

Nikita Kislitsin, who was arrested in Kazakhstan in early June at the request of the United States, face hacking and extortion charges in his home country, according to the Moscow Prosecutor General’s Office.

There was no official confirmation from Kazakhstan at the time of writing. In October, the Kazakh prosecutor’s office said that the decision to extradite Kislitsin could take up to a year. The agency did not respond to a request for comment.

Kislitsin served as head of network security at cybersecurity firm Group-IB and its Russia-based spinoff, FACCT. He was also the editor-in-chief of the popular Russian magazine called Hacker.

Russian authorities said in a statement On Thursday, in October last year, Kislitsin and his accomplices “illegally accessed data from the server of one of the commercial organizations and copied them.”

After receiving the data, they demanded a ransom of nearly $6,000 in cryptocurrency to prevent the information from being published, the Russian investigation said.

At the same time, the United States wanted Kislitsin’s extradition for another reason. In a charge revealed in 2020, the US Department of Justice alleges that Kislitsin was linked to a cyberattack on the now-defunct social media company Formspring in 2012, when hackers managed to obtain and sell usernames and words passwords belonging to American customers.

The main perpetrator of this affair is another Russian citizen, Eugene Nikulin, who was found guilty in the United States for allegedly stealing approximately 117 million usernames and passwords from Formspring, LinkedIn and Dropbox.

At the time, Group-IB said that the US indictment contains only allegations, “and no conclusion has been drawn that Kislitsin engaged in any wrongdoing.” The company also said that Kislitsin’s indictment was based solely on his alleged connection to one of the episodes of the Nikulin case.

After being arrested in Kazakhstan, Kislitsin said he was determined to return to his homeland and did not intend to consider other options, such as seeking asylum in Kazakhstan.

The Kislitsin affair is the latest dispute between Moscow and Washington over cybercriminals and Russian spies accused of being detained in other countries at the request of American authorities.

Russia reportedly sent a note to Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry, urging authorities not to extradite Kislitsin to the United States. Once in Russia, Kislitsin could escape transfer to the United States – a tactic Moscow has used in the past.

In Russia, Kislitsin faces up to seven years in prison, but it is unclear whether he denies the charges against him.

Another figure associated with Groupe-IB, co-founder Ilya Sachkov, has been condemned in July to 14 years in a Russian penal colony on top-secret treason charges. Sachkov denies these accusations.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk is a freelance journalist for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe, and the state of the Ukraine-Russia cyberwar. She was previously a tech journalist for Forbes Ukraine. His work has also been published in Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.

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