Group-IB’s official statement on case No. CR 16-00440 involving Nikita Kislitsin

Group-IB, an international cybersecurity company, that specializes in preventing cyberattacks, has made an official statement on the US Department of Justice (DOJ) case No. CR 16-00440 USA v. Yevgeniy Nikulin, in which current Group-IB employee Nikita Kislitsin, the former editor of “Hacker” magazine, is mentioned. Given the above, we feel it is our responsibility to make a public announcement on this situation and clarify Group-IB ’s position on this matter.

At current, neither Group-IB, nor Nikita Kislitsin have received any official subpoenas, notifications or invitations to the upcoming trial relating to Case No. CR 16-00440 USA v. Yevgeniy Nikulin which will take place on March 9, 2020. We consider these actions unacceptable and a violation of the rights of our employee.

With information becoming public on the upcoming trial against Yevgeniy Nikulin we feel that it is our responsibility to clarify all events described in the case which took place 8 years ago, before Kislitsin was employed with Group-IB. The information that has become public contains only allegations, and no findings have been made that Nikita Kislitsin has engaged in any wrongdoing. We have made the decision to support our colleague, and importantly to describe and clarify publicly to prevent disinformation or distortion of the facts.

We would like to highlight that, when joining Group-IB, Nikita Kislitsin never concealed his earlier research and journalism experience in the capacity of an independent analyst and as an editor-in-chief of “Hacker” magazine. Moreover, we would like to make public the fact that Group-IB ’s representatives and Nikita Kislitsin, himself, met a DOJ employee at their own initiative in 2013 to inform them of research relating to the underground, which was conducted by Kislitsin in 2012, at the time when he was not a Group-IB staff member. After this meeting, neither Group-IB nor Nikita Kislitsin have been officially approached with any additional questions.

We are aware that the decision we have taken may carry reputational risks for Group-IB and treat this fact with the utmost seriousness. We will remain committed to collaborating with international law enforcement in the fight against cyber crime and would like to stress that we always adhere to high moral and ethical values that are part of our company and are a must for every one of us. Meanwhile, we believe that research focused on combatting cybercrime in compliance with the international law is an inherent right of every cybersecurity specialist.

Currently, Group-IB is holding consultations with international lawyers to get the legal assessment of the situation and decide on the further steps.

About Nikita Kislitsin

From 2006-2012, Nikita Kislitsin was a famous journalist and a chief editor of Hacker, a monthly magazine about information security, programming, and computer network administration. Kislitsin was in charge of the magazine for six years. The magazine paid particular attention to research into cyberattacks, analysis of cybercriminal groups’ tools, case studies of online fraud and hacking, and recommendations on cybersecurity measures and protection against cyberthreats. Hacker’s editorial staff regularly performed what would now be called Threat Intelligence, i.e. search for data, indicators of compromise (hashes of malicious files, IP addresses, and domains linked to criminal activities), and other information that could help identify a potential threat, be the first to report it, and give security recommendations.

In April 2012, Nikita stepped down as chief editor of Hacker, moved to the United States and started to work as an independent threat researcher.

In January 2013, Kislitsin was hired at Group-IB , having passed a multistage selection process, which in addition to a number of interviews, also included a polygraph test. He became the first specialist in threat intelligence, a field that only a handful of companies worked in at the time in Russia. From the very start, Kislitsin proved himself a talented leader, facilitating development, and developing new ways of searching for and analyzing data to power Group-IB ’s then nascent products. He took part in the creation of Group-IB ’s Threat Intelligence team.

Addition: It should be highlighted that the DOJ case No. CR 16-00440 is against Mr. Yevgeniy Nikulin. And Kislitsin’s indictment is build solely on his alleged connection to one of the episodes in the Nikulin’s case

About Group-IB

Group-IB, with its headquarters in Singapore, is one of the leading providers of solutions dedicated to detecting and preventing cyberattacks, identifying online fraud, investigating high-tech crimes, and protecting intellectual property. The company’s Threat Intelligence and Research Centers are located in the Middle East (Dubai), the Asia-Pacific (Singapore), and Europe (Amsterdam).

Group-IB’s Unified Risk Platform is an ecosystem of solutions that understands each organization’s threat profile and tailors defenses against them in real-time from a single interface. The Unified Risk Platform provides complete coverage of the cyber response chain. Group-IB’s products and services consolidated in Group-IB’s Unified Risk Platform include Group-IB’s Threat IntelligenceManaged XDRDigital Risk ProtectionFraud ProtectionAttack Surface ManagementBusiness Email ProtectionAudit & ConsultingEducation & TrainingDigital Forensics & Incident ResponseManaged Detection & Response, and Cyber Investigations.

Group-IB’s technological leadership and R&D capabilities are built on the company’s 19 years of hands-on experience in cybercrime investigations worldwide and more than 70,000 hours of cybersecurity incident response accumulated in our leading DFIR Laboratory, High-Tech Crime Investigations Department, and round-the-clock CERT-GIB.

Group-IB is an active partner in global investigations led by international law enforcement organizations such as Europol and INTERPOL. Group-IB is also a member of the Europol European Cybercrime Centre’s (EC3) Advisory Group on Internet Security, which was created to foster closer cooperation between Europol and its leading non-law enforcement partners.

Group-IB’s experience in threat hunting and cyber intelligence has been fused into an ecosystem of highly sophisticated software and hardware solutions designed to monitor, identify, and prevent cyberattacks. Group-IB’s mission is to protect its clients in cyberspace every day by creating and leveraging innovative solutions and services. To do so, we analyze cyber threats, develop our infrastructure to monitor them, respond to incidents, investigate complex high-tech crimes, and design unique technologies, solutions, and services to counteract adversaries.