The filing of lawsuits against people living outside the U.S., let alone Russia, can be fraught with difficulty. In July 2003, Russia suspended judicial cooperation with the U.S. in civil and commercial matters, according to the U.S. State Department. Still, Microsoft served Sabelnikov with the lawsuit in person at his attorney's office in St. Petersburg on Feb. 21, which complied with Russian law.
Later in August, Sabelnikov apparently had a change of heart and entered into negotiations, according to a Microsoft filing on Aug. 23. "If there are any troubles, they have to be solved -- you should not hide from them," Sabelnikov said.
Sabelnikov, who is now developing a music recommendation engine called FireHint, won't say exactly what caused him to change his mind.
Microsoft, on the other hand, appears to have somewhat backed down from its contention that Sabelnikov owned, operated and controlled Kelihos. Instead, the company indicates that it agreed with Sabelnikov's claims of innocence.
Richard Domingues Boscovich, assistant general counsel for Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, declined to be interviewed on Tuesday, saying the case was closed. But he did provide a statement.
"In the Kelihos case, we were able to identify the developer of the code as well as find out how the code was written and distributed," Boscovich said. "It's important to note that this investigation also revealed how cybercriminals leverage people in the industry to develop code for their illegitimate purposes and that, in some cases, the developer is unaware of how their code will be used upon completion."
Sabelnikov didn't answer questions over his exact involvement with Kelihos. The case, Boscovich said, "allowed us to collect important intelligence and data on how botnets are built."
There appear to be no hurt feelings on either side. Microsoft was "extremely civil" throughout the process, Sabelnikov said. "I have the impression that they are good professionals and very competent guys."