"Who better to assist in a break-in?" he said. "There is also the 'cover' of criminal actions to potentially obfuscate the spying that was allegedly the real purpose."
In response to Wednesday's criminal indictments by the FBI, the Russian government is denying any involvement, and calling the allegations a distraction.
Baratov, who has been arrested in Canada, is also claiming innocence, according to his lawyer. Meanwhile, Belan remains at large.
But if the allegations are true, it does show one example of how Russia is harnessing the power of cybercriminals for spying purposes -- and how it can get sloppy.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.