Tuesday, 20 July 2010 12:35

Microsoft Plugged Into Russian Espionage

Written by 

In what now reads like an ongoing Cold War spy novel, a new chapter unfolded last week when on July 13, U.S. officials admitted to having arrested and deported a 12th suspect of the Russian espionage network.

Matt Chandler, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, identified the suspect as Alexey Karetnikov, a Russian citizen who “admitted that he was present in the United States in violation of immigration law and voluntarily agreed to deportation in lieu of further court proceedings,” according to an e-mail sent to the media.

Karetnikov was deported on orders from an immigration judge on July 12, according to the e-mail. The Wall Street Journal cited an unidentified U.S. official who said, “Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence investigators have been investigating the 23-year-old Russian man since last fall when his name surfaced in a decade-long spy investigation.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Department of Justice, which prosecuted the initial Russian espionage network, as having said that Karetnikov “‘has not been charged with any criminal violation’ in connection with the other spies.”

In what appeared as a quick no-questions-asked deportation, Karetnikov was sent back to Russia before any serious judicial investigation could have commenced with regard to his Russian espionage activities or subversion. It is not apparent what information he may have acquired, and unfortunately Karetnikov is outside of U.S. jurisdiction back in his native Russian Federation.

“Mr. Karetnikov voluntarily agreed to deportation,” stated U.S. officials, after he admitted to being in the United States illegally. 

Like fellow Russian spies Anna Chapman and Mikhail Semenko, Karetnikov also left behind an Internet trail on social media websites, such as Facebook.com, where his profile page list him as a resident of Redmond, Washington, and employee of Microsoft.

Karetnikov’s Facebook might not be as extensive as the other mentioned spies, but it does shed some light as to who and what he was all about. In 2004, Karentnikov graduated from Saint Petersburg Lyceum 239, which is a high school that specializes in physics and mathematics, located in St. Petersburg, Russia.

He then enrolled at St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University. Upon graduating in 2009, he went to the United States where he would go on to work for Microsoft as a SDEC (Software Design Engineer in Test), which is “a developer with the primary responsibility of writing code and tools to test products,” according to Microsoft.

The news of Karetnikov’s employment at Microsoft, especially as a developer in charge of writing the coding and tools to test new products, is extremely relevant to the entire Russian espionage situation.

According to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti, Microsoft released to the Russian government its source codes for Windows 7, the newest computer operating system manufactured by Microsoft. Among the Russian government agencies to receive the source codes, according to the agreement, is the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB intelligence service.

Among the other source codes that the Russian government and FSB will be given, in order to endulge in the “opportunity to study,” as reported in Vedomosti, will be the ones for an array of current Microsoft products, such as Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SQL Server.

This agreement was originally made between Microsoft and the Russian government in 2002. Since then Russia has obtained the source codes for other products, such as Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Server 2000.

This is reported to open the way for the use of these products in Russian state agencies, most of which fall under the regimentation of the FSB and Russia’s Ministry of Communication and Press. Vedomosti also reported that the FSB will be able to share the source codes and information with other agencies.

The news of this exchange of source codes to the FSB comes around the same time as the Duma, Russia’s federal legislative body, voted to reconstitute old KGB-era powers to the FSB.

It should also be remembered that the 10 initial Russian spies arrested by the FBI were reported to have been agents for the SVR, another KGB successor and sister division to the FSB.

In an online video interview, from 2009, Russian defector and former KGB Lt. Colonial Konstantin Preobrazhesnky said about the succession of the KGB, “KGB is changing its name every few years…. It’s made just to deceive the West; to make the Western studies of the KGB far more difficult.”

Preobrazhesnky explained, “Putin has restored the KGB, while Yeltsin has divided KGB into a few ministries, one of which was FSB, in order to make former KGB weaker, but Putin returned everything back. And now, former independent ministries are under FSB. Only one has been left, its intelligence, it’s called SVR, but in fact it also working together with the FSB.”

He described the difference, between the FSB and SVR, as merely being symbolic, stating that both the FSB and SVR are essentially “one and the same ministries.”

To summarize what has transpired here, the newly invigorated FSB has obtained Microsoft’s latest source codes that it plans to share with other Russian agencies such as its "one and the same" counterpart the SVR that oversaw and managed the spy network of the 11 deported Russian agents, including Karetnikov — a Microsoft SDEC employee.

With the ongoing and continuously developing news of espionage conspiracy, one can only wonder how much longer until the next incident is uncovered.

Photo of Microsoft founder Bill Gates: AP Images

Please Log In To Comment
Log in