Maria Butina, the Russian woman arrested on espionage charges in the US last year, was also a graduate student on a student visa. Through her work, Butina had access to a steady stream of sensitive information that she allegedly passed on to the Kremlin to use in their operations.
Working with an esteemed professor who served as an advisor to the State Department on cybersecurity issues gave Butina access to valuable information regarding cybersecurity strategies of US non-profit organizations such as Internews that addresses media freedom and human rights, reported the Associated Press.
Internews ran programs in critical countries, including Russia and Ukraine, focusing on freedom of the press and cybersecurity. This activity attracted the attention of Kremlin officials, particularly because it was funded by the US government. After Butina’s arrest, the Associated Press reported that people working on the project stated these programs had been compromised by Russian operatives.
“We have verified that all documents Internews provided to its students were publicly available, and we remain confident in the integrity of the State Department’s programs with Internews,” said Robert Palladino, spokesperson for the State Department.
According to the US Department of Justice, Butina engaged in relationships with influential members of the political circle in Washington DC in exchange for favors, one person of interest allegedly being Republican and GOP strategist Paul Erickson whom she allegedly lived with.
Butina is awaiting trial on December 6. A gun rights activist, the woman’s plan was allegedly to infiltrate the NRA and the American right wing to manipulate US politics as dictated by the Kremlin, writes Business Insider.
*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Bitdefender Labs authored by Luana Pascu. Read the original post at: https://labs.bitdefender.com/2018/10/alleged-russian-operative-infiltrated-dc-circles-studied-us-cyber-strategies/