Kaspersky Bearing With Uncertain Times

PERHAPS the fortunes of nations are aligned along lines of circumstance.

With next year’s FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia, it’s probably a good thing that the USA was dumped out of the tournament.

Relations between the two countries have turned frosty again as accusations are levelled at Russia for allegedly interfering in the 2016 US elections.

After the Cold War of the 1970s, is another cold snap expected?

Caught up in the midst of the furore is cyber security firm, Kaspersky Lab.

The US General Services Administration (GSA) has ordered Kaspersky software platforms be removed from its list of approved vendors. There’s a possibility that this could have wider implications if contractors and suppliers working with the US government are expected to comply with the ban.

Kaspersky technology is integrated into the hardware and software products of companies like Microsoft and Juniper.

Kaspersky denies the accusations, and its founder and CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, has volunteered to testify before Congress, a high-profile attempt by Kaspersky to distance itself from this accusation of espionage.

Fake News

At last week’s Kaspersky Cyber Weekend session in Phuket, Alejandro Arango, Global Director, Corporate Communications at Kaspersky Lab, was far from impressed with this  turn of events that the Trump Administration has inflicted on Kaspersky Lab.

While Kaspersky’s Shrek-green mascot, Midori Kuma, prowled the room for photo opportunities, its happy demeanour is probably not truly reflective of the mood in the company.

“There has been no credible evidence presented. It’s all based on anonymous sources to create a narrative,” said Arango.

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Arango stresses that Kaspersky’s approach to addressing cyber security issues is rigorous.

“There’s so much fake news out there, we have to verify several sources. We base everything we report only on fact.”

With its intention to protect the digital world, Kaspersky has its work cut out.

Stephan Neumeier, the Managing Director of Kaspersky Lab APAC, says the Internet Of Things (IoT) and all the potential inroads for malicious software it presents will pose a daunting challenge.

“The next focus will be on Linux, since developers are using this for IoT devices,” Neumeier explains.

“The global population is around 7.5 billion but by 2020 there will be 26 billion connected devices, driven by IoT. Everything needs to be protected.”

The recent ransomware — WannaCry and Petya — have pushed the boundaries for Kaspersky.  (See article Cyberspace — An Aggressive Toxic Environment) Pushing the assaults into the territory of terrorism has also given Kaspersky’s business a huge boost, especially in Asia, where it leads in the retail sector.

Increased Awareness

Sylvia Ng, General Manager of the Southeast Asia region for Kaspersky Lab, says that a few years ago, companies in the region didn’t place much emphasis on cyber security.

Sylvia Ng Kaspersky
Sylvia Ng sees growth.

“In 2011, the budget split for tech planning by companies was usually in favour of hardware — 70/30. And of the 30% for software, security had around 10-20%. But in the last two years, it has become 50/50 and the security software budget is around 40-50%,” she explains.

With the recent ransomware attacks, more companies are opting for heightened levels of cyber security.

Yury Namestnikov, Head of Kaspersky Lab’s Research Centre, spends a lot of his time in the company of malware samples.

Yury Namestnikov
Yury Namestnikov battles malware.

“There are 300,000 malware samples coming in per day,” says the youthful father of three. “But 99.5% can be sorted out. Then we work on the others. It could take anything from 30 seconds to several days to fix.”

Yury spent his early years developing scenarios for massively multi-player online role-play games (MMORPG). This sort of strategic thinking would be useful in dealing with aggressive attacks on systems that are resulting in infrastructural setbacks.

Between virtual threats and dealing with White House accusations, it will be a busy period for Kaspersky Lab.

Updated 17 October 2017.

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