Why was Russian spy working at Microsoft? Looking for Windows 8 screenshots?

Who says that Google has all the mojo these days? The Washington Post reports that an alleged Russian spy who was just arrested worked at Microsoft. The Redmond company must be pleased to know that the Russkies targeted it rather than Google for industrial espionage.

The Washington Post says that Alexey Karetnikov entered the U.S. in October, settled in the Seattle area, and worked for Microsoft as a software tester. Karetnikov, the article says, is in his early to mid 20s and is a Russian citizen. He was deported to Russia on Tuesday.

Here's what the Post says about the man:

Database searches show that someone with Karetnikov's name had been living in an apartment in Redmond, Wash., since October. That man's Facebook page says he worked for Microsoft and a Romanian-based software company called Neobit.

Lou Gellos, a Microsoft spokesman, confirmed that Karetnikov had worked at the company for about nine months as a software tester. He said Karetnikov is the man whom authorities deported on Tuesday but would not comment further.

It's not clear what Karetnikov was supposed to be doing in the U.S. He hasn't been charged with spying, and was deported based on immigration violations. The government says he had obtained no useful information to send back to Moscow, the Post reports:

"He was just in the early stages; had just set up shop," said one senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details of the case were closely held. The official added that the FBI was monitoring the Russian almost immediately upon his arrival and that he had "obtained absolutely no information."

It's unlikely a coincidence that the Russians sent a spy to work at Microsoft; one can easily imagine that they were looking for industrial and tech secrets of some kind. Secrets from a software tester, though? Were they looking for Windows 8 screenshots? Seeing whether Windows Phone 7 can compete against the iPhone and Android phones? Or maybe looking for ways to finally kill the Blue Screen of Death on Russian PCs?

Whatever the reason, Microsoft must be pleased to know that a world power thinks it's more important to spy on it than on Google.

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