US sanctions Russia’s “Cyber Grandpa” for selling A surveillance tool to Kremlin spies

The US government has imposed sanctions on a former KGB agent and YouTube influencer who sold a big data surveillance tool to Russian intelligence agencies, energy companies, and authoritarian regimes.

Andrei Masalovich, 62, is the founder and CEO of Lavina-Pulse, also known as Avalanche, a software that collects and analyzes massive amounts of online data to influence public opinion and monitor dissidents.

According to the US Treasury, Masalovich helped the Kremlin “attack democracy in the United States, Ukraine, and around the world” by providing Avalanche to entities linked to Russian interference in elections, cyberattacks, and human rights abuses.

The Treasury said that Avalanche was used by Russian spies to target Ukrainian activists and politicians, by Russian energy giants to monitor environmental protesters and journalists, and by repressive regimes such as Vietnam and Belarus to suppress dissent.

Masalovich, who calls himself “Cyber Grandpa” on his YouTube channel with 95,000 subscribers, denied any wrongdoing and said he was happy for the publicity. He claimed that he was a master of web surveillance who had worked with various governments and organizations around the world.

He also said that he had a book to sell and that his YouTube channel was a platform for sharing his knowledge and opinions on cybersecurity, politics, and social issues.

Masalovich is one of several individuals and entities sanctioned by the US for their involvement in Russian malign activities. The sanctions freeze any assets they may have in the US and prohibit any transactions with them by US persons or entities.