A Russian tech firm that gained notoriety after being named in a controversial dossier about Donald Trump may have been used by Russian spies to hack the 2016 American election.
The New York Times reported that a report by a former FBI “cyberexpert,” unsealed in a Miami court Thursday, claims that networks operated by tech companies owned by Aleksej Gubarev played host to Russian agents.
“His networks also appear to have been regularly used by cybercriminals and Russian agents to conduct other attacks, such as an assault on Ukraine’s power grid in 2015,” the report noted.
Anthony Ferrante, the former FBI agent and lead author of the report, stopped short of implicating Gubarev or the executives at his companies, saying he has “no evidence of them actually sitting behind a keyboard.”
The dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, however, claimed the networks operated by the Russian’s companies used “botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”
Ferrante’s report was commissioned by BuzzFeed after Gubarev filed a since-dismissed lawsuit against the company for publishing the Steele dossier, the Times noted. The Russian tech company owner denied any knowledge of the DNC hacks.
Gubarev’s American lawyer, Evan Fray-Witzer, argued that companies should not be held legally responsible when hackers use their infrastructure. Fray-Witzer also fought for months to keep the report sealed, the Times noted.
The report, which was conducted by the DC-based FTI Consulting firm, did not find “direct evidence” or links to Russian hackers — but it did conclude that Gubarev’s companies not only were regularly used by “cybercriminals and Russian state-sponsored actors,” but that neither he nor his executives took action to prevent such uses.