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