Accused Russian agent studied nonprofits’ cybersecurity: report

Accused Russian agent studied nonprofits’ cybersecurity: report
© Getty Images

Maria Butina, the woman accused of being a Russian agent, studied cyber defenses of certain U.S. nonprofit organizations focused on human rights and media, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The news outlet reported that Butina, who was a graduate student at American University, gathered information on the organizations as part of an assignment at the university. She reportedly collected information on how the groups guard against potential cyber vulnerabilities.

ADVERTISEMENT

The AP reported that Butina worked on the project with a professor who advised the State Department on issues involving cybersecurity, and her work focused on the nonprofit Internews, which works to ensure countries that are hostile to the press still have access to information.

The connections to the State Department and Internews would likely have been of interest to Russian officials, the AP reported.

Internews confirmed to the AP that Butina had been working on the project. A lawyer for Butina did not respond to a request for comment from the news outlet.

American University said in a statement to The Hill that it cannot comment on Butina's academic record due to federal privacy laws. The school confirmed she was enrolled from summer 2016 to spring 2018.

Butina is set to appear in court on Dec. 6 on charges of conspiracy and acting as an agent of the Kremlin without notifying the attorney general. The FBI said she cultivated a network of U.S. contacts in order to help advance Russia’s interests politically.

Butina's lawyers have said that the U.S. government is withholding evidence that could help their client.