Inside story: how Kaspersky Lab is building trust

Inside story: how Kaspersky Lab is building trust

Ongoing saga has portrayed Moscow specialists as sponsors of espionage

Eugene Kaspersky (Kaspersky Lab)

Eugene Kaspersky (Kaspersky Lab)

Credit: Maria Stefina - IDG

After the Trump administration in the US banned the use of Kaspersky Lab products by government agencies, the cyber security vendor has attempted to banish allegations of Russian influence.

The on-going saga - played out in front of the world’s media - has portrayed the Moscow-headquartered business as sponsors of espionage, using software to carry out spying operations on a global scale.

In response, founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky has been unwavering in his denial of such accusations, previously insisting that; “if the Russian government comes to me and asks me to do anything wrong - or my employees - I will move the business out of Russia.”

The vendor even plans to open a data centre in Switzerland to address Western government concerns that Russia exploits its anti-virus software to spy on customers.

Closer to home, across Asia Pacific, the vendor shed light on the current state of play during a press conference with reports in Sydney, offering an explanation as to how the fallout originated.

“What really matters to us is that we fight cyber crime,” said Stephan Neumeier, managing director of Asia Pacific, Kaspersky Lab. “We neutralise malware where we see it.

“We do not really care if this malicious code has been developed by a cyber criminal working from a home office or a home computer or a highly sophisticated APT [advanced persistent threat] and malware which gets developed by a state sponsored actor.

“That is one of the reasons why we got in trouble with the US. And this is one of the main reasons why we got banned from the government business in the US because we do not differentiate between a state sponsored attack, or malware that is developed by a common cyber criminal.”

According to Neumeier, when speaking to ARN, the vendor got caught in geopolitical interests between the US and Russian governments, due to the vendor’s founding in Moscow.

Globally however, the security specialists has since moved research and development from Russia to Switzerland, with products and threat detection rule databases (AV databases) to start being assembled and signed with a digital signature in Switzerland before the end of 2018.

The relocation will ensure that all newly assembled software can be verified by an independent organisation, and show that software builds and updates received by customers match the source code provided for audit.

Specifically, and as part of a global transparency Initiative announced in October 2017, Kaspersky Lab will move customer data from users in Australia, Europe, North America, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, as well as software assembly, including threat detection updates to be housed in a new data centre in Zurich.

Stephan Neumeier (Kaspersky Lab)
Stephan Neumeier (Kaspersky Lab)

“Transparency is one such need, and that is why we’ve decided to redesign our infrastructure and move our data processing facilities to Switzerland," Kaspersky said at the time.

“We believe such action will become a global trend for cyber security, and that a policy of trust will catch on across the industry as a key basic requirement.”

The data centre is expected to be established by the end of 2019.

Local plans

Neumeier said Kaspersky Lab met with representatives of the Prime Minister's office in Australia on 25 June, to ensure a similar stand-off with the US can be avoided on local shores.

“The information was well-received by the Prime Minister's office, the meeting went very, very well,” Neumeier said. “The bottom line is we don't want to have the same situation here in Australia that we have in the US and we keep the dialogue with them, inform them of what we do.

“If there are concerns in the future and the transparency centre is up and running, we are going to invite them to Switzerland to see for themselves what we have done and how the products work.”

In Australia, Kaspersky Lab announced a partnership with Crime Stoppers with the intent to educate the local community against online crime.

The deal sees the cyber security vendor share data and training tools that will enable Australians contacting crime stoppers call centre to learn about cyber crimes.

Kaspersky Lab has a lot to gain from this partnership following bans on its products by certain government entities in the US, UK and Lithuania.

Neumeier said that Kaspersky lost at least one major retail contract in the US as a result of the negative impact on the brand.

The business also revealed plans to open two transparency centres, one to be located in North America and another one in Asia Pacific.

In Australia, the cyber security vendor also just announced plans to to open a second Australian office in Sydney, which is expected to be launched by 2019.

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