Eugene Kaspersky: I Am Not A Russian Spy
On the 19th of March, Bloomberg published a sensational, fear-inducing story: the founder of Kaspersky Labs, Eugene Kaspersky, is a Russian spy, and this is why his company does not focus on attacks of Russian origin.
While this is not true in any sense, which we’ll get to in a moment, the evidence that Bloomberg used went as follows:
… the company hasn’t pursued alleged Russian operations with the same vigor. In February, Kaspersky Lab researchers released a remarkably detailed report about the tactics of a hacker collective known as the Equation Group, which has targeted Russia, Iran, and Pakistan, and which cybersecurity analysts believe to be a cover for the U.S. National Security Agency. Kaspersky Lab hasn’t issued a similar report about Russia’s links to sophisticated spyware known as Sofacy, which has attacked NATO and foreign ministries in Eastern Europe.
The article also claims that the firm, which employs 60% Russian citizens, has been pushing out employees in favor of those with closer ties to the Russian military and intelligence establishment. To this, Kaspersky responded in a blog post:
We hire and fire employees; employees leave of their own accord;
60% of our employees are Russians;
Our Chief Legal Officer served in the Border Control when he was 18 and at that time the service was a part of the KGB.
The important part of that is: “employees leave of their own accord.” While the Bloomberg article made the claim that people were being fired specifically to be replaced by those with closer ties to the Russian government, it did not provide any examples or testimony from such victims. Also held up as evidence was the fact that the company works with the FSB, the organization which has replaced the KGB in Russia. The simple fact of the matter is that, even if they do, this is not something which should surprise anyone. All legitimate companies comply with government demands. It’s one of the costs of doing business. Kaspersky has long assured customers that specific data about them is simply unavailable though usage statistics are possible to obtain.
Another thing that Bloomberg pointed out was that Kaspersky regularly goes to a sauna which is also frequented by members of the FSB, as well as the fact that Kaspersky was educated at a KGB-sponsored cryptography institute. The last part is written casually as if the young man would have had very many alternative choices in Soviet-era Russia. On the former part, Kaspersky maintains that it is coincidental that others go to the same spa as him. Should he change his habits simply because other people attend the same banya?
He ends his blog post with a poll, and at time of writing, as much as 20% of the readers had voted that he, himself, were talking nonsense.
Actually, I’d like to thank Bloomberg and all the journalists behind this story! Much like our antivirus often does, they performed a full system scan –and found nothing. It’s like a halal or kosher stamp – check! External audit successfully passed.
Images from Shutterstock and Eugene Kaspersky Blog.