Vrublevsky Sues Kaspersky

The co-founder and owner of ChronoPay, one of Russia’s largest e-payment providers, is suing Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab, alleging that the latter published defamatory blog posts about him in connection with his ongoing cybercrime trial.

ChronoPay founder Pavel Vrublevsky, at his office in Moscow

Pavel O. Vrublevsky, is on trial in Moscow for allegedly hiring the curator of the Festi spam botnet to attack one of ChronoPay’s rival payment processors. He spent six months in prison last year after admitting to his part in the attack on Assist, a company that processed payments for Russian airline Aeroflot.

The events leading up to that crime are the subject of my Pharma Wars series, which documents an expensive and labyrinthine grudge match between Vrublevsky and the other co-founder of ChronoPay: Igor Gusevthe alleged proprietor of GlavMed and SpamIt, sister organizations that until recently were the largest sources of spam touting rogue Internet pharmacies. For his part, Vrublevsky has been identified as the co-owner of a competing rogue pharmacy program, the now-defunct Rx-Promotion. 

Kaspersky blogger Tatyana Nikitina has covered Vrublevsky’s trial, which has been marked by prosecutorial miscues, allegations of official corruption, and the passage of new Russian laws that actually reduce the penalties for some of Vrublevsky’s alleged offenses. In her latest blog post, “The Vrublevsky Case is Ruined,” Nikitina laments yet another regressive milestone in the trial: The dismissal of claims by Aeroflot that it suffered almost $5 million losses as a result of the cyberattack.

Late last month, Vrublevsky’s lawyers fired back, filing a $5 million defamation lawsuit against Kaspersky Lab, charging that its publications contained untrue and defamatory information. In the suit, Vrublevsky argues that Kaspersky is not only trying to discredit him and influence the judicial process, but that Kaspersky is hardly a disinterested party. He noted that Assist was using Kaspersky’s DDoS protection services at the time of the attack, which Assist said took its services offline for a week.

Contacted via Twitter, Eugene Kaspersky, founder of the Russian antivirus firm, declined to comment on the matter, beyond saying that the company’s lawyers were looking forward to reviewing the allegations. An unofficial copy of the claim is available here.

Interestingly, prior to his arrest and incarceration, Vrublevsky briefly pursued similar defamation charges against the author of this blog, in an apparent attempt to silence my reporting on the Pharma Wars. Around that time, hackers who had broken into ChronoPay leaked thousands of internal ChronoPay emails, documents and other materials. Among those were several recorded phone calls between Vrublevsky and a Russian-speaking lawyer he’d hired in Washington, D.C. to draw up legal papers for suing me.

Those conversations, along with dozens of emails between ChronoPay executives and their lawyers, showed that Vrublevsky was prepared to spend quite a bit of money to bring a defamation case against KrebsOnSecurity. Ultimately, Vrublevsky was advised that he may have a slim chance of winning, that the case could drag on for years, and that he and ChronoPay could be vulnerable to having even more of their business dragged into the light of day if the case ever went to trial.

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