How It All Started
Kaspersky Labs, an industry-leading developer and retailer of security software, has recently been tied to Russia and the Russian mob. Kaspersky, which is a major retailer of antivirus software, is a Moscow-based company that in 2013 ranked sixth in revenue compared to other similar companies. During that year, Kaspersky reported earnings over $650 million. Kaspersky’s software is well known and respected, and a quick review on websites like Best Buy and Amazon shows users give the software high reviews.
One little known fact, until recently, was the company’s Founder – Eugene Kaspersky – used to work for the Russian secret service, also known as the KGB. In 2007 the company even used a marketing scheme titled “A Specialist in Cryptography from KGB”, but that idea was quickly scrubbed when the company’s headquarters learned about it.
Stick With Friends
Additionally, although the company used to recruit managers from the US and Europe, the most recent trend is to put people into those jobs with ties to Russian military and intelligence services. Sources from the company, who spoke anonymously and only in private for fear of reprisals, said some of the managers with ties to Russia continue to aid investigations by Russian intelligence agencies.
The sources even went so far as to say the managers help the investigations into activities that range from the Ashley-Madison hacking scandal to the recent iCloud activation lock bypass by using data from Kaspersky customers who use their software. These close ties don’t stop with mid- and senior-level managers. Kaspersky himself is known to meet weekly with a group of friends in a social gathering that includes Russian intelligence officials.
Only Report on Adversaries
Another interesting data point is the research and reports put out by Kaspersky Labs. In recent years Kaspersky has published reports about hacking and cyber espionage by the UK, Israel, and the US. Notably lacking though, is any published information about the same type of activities from Russia.
What they have published, in a great level of detail, is a report about a hacker group known as the Equation Group, which has targeted Russia and countries like Iran and Pakistan that are known to politically cuddle up with Russia. Reports about attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Europe? Sorry, you won’t find any of those coming out of Kaspersky Labs. This isn’t necessarily a smoking gun, but it is another possible sign of ties between Kaspersky and Russian intelligence.
It should also be noted that Kaspersky is not alone in how they appear to be closely tied to a country’s intelligence agencies. Other major security firms are known to work with US spy agencies in some capacity. Of course, this makes marketing a product in the global market tougher than it would be for a company with no ties to intelligence or spy services.
In today’s environment, with more and more information becoming known about privacy issues and spying, this is certainly an issue companies must consider. This is certainly the case for Kaspersky Labs, which has struggled to get into the world of lucrative US government contracts because of their reported ties to Russia.
What’s It All Mean?
All this information is interesting and will most likely raise some eyebrows, but it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Every country wants to get ahead and maintain their national security and interests. The best way to do that is to know what your adversaries, and sometimes your friends, are doing. What better way than to have ties with a major security software company that has their software on millions of computers around the world, right?
This doesn’t mean Kaspersky Labs, or any other company for that matter, is actively spying on anyone. But with all their technical and personnel assets, it does make one wonder just how close the ties are between one of the most well-known software security companies and the intelligence services of a country known to make use of cyber warfare.