Late last year, agents of the FBI and NCIS raided a Houston-based company (Arc Electronics) that sold millions of dollars worth of sensitive, export controlled microelectronics to the Russian government including an unidentified research laboratory that’s part of Russia’s Federal Security Service (the FSB, which took over domestic intelligence operations from the KGB). Here’s a quick synopsis from the Houston FBI field office press release:

As alleged in the indictment, between approximately October 2008 and the present, Fishenko and the other defendants engaged in a surreptitious and systematic conspiracy to obtain advanced, technologically cutting-edge microelectronics from manufacturers and suppliers located within the United States and to export those high-tech goods to Russia, while carefully evading the government licensing system set up to control such exports. The microelectronics shipped to Russia included analog-to-digital converters, static random access memory chips, microcontrollers, and microprocessors. These commodities have applications and are frequently used in a wide range of military systems, including radar and surveillance systems, missile guidance systems, and detonation triggers. Russia does not produce many of these sophisticated goods domestically.

According to the above release, the FBI recovered a letter sent to Arc Electronics from a “specialized electronics laboratory” of the FSB which demanded a replacement for certain malfunctioning parts. No other identifying information was provided in the press release or in the unsealed indictment.

Cyber security consultancy Taia Global‘s Russia experts have identified the FSB lab which illegally ordered U.S. export-controlled microelectronics from Arc: Military Unit (Vch) 35533. Military unit designators are used as cover devices so as not to reveal the actual name of the institution in documents or other forms of communication. After an extensive investigation, Taia Global has identified Vch 35533 as Scientific Research Institute Number 1 of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia.

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Scientific Research Center-1 is one of three research centers comprising the FSB Research Center located in the 3rd Directorate, the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Services.  Posted FSB regulations state that Scientific Research Center-2 is qualified for forensic research across a range of technical subjects from chemistry to secret writing.  Scientific Research Center-2 supports FSB criminal investigations.  Scientific Research Center-3 focuses on information security issues and works with the FSB Information Security Center located in the counterintelligence directorate.

Vch 35533 tenders list a general address in the Zheleznodorozhny district roughly 25 kilometers east of Moscow.  Russian social media posts listing from either current or former Vch 35533 employees place the unit in either the 1000 to 10,000 category or the greater than 10,000 category.  Vch 35533 is also a secure facility.  Zheleznodorozhny consists primarily of high rise residential building with limited locations for a large research center.  Correlating the available information, Taia Global analysts identified the probable location for Vch 35533.

Vch 35533 location