NOTA BENE

Notes, comment and buzz from Eugene Kaspersky – Official Blog

May 26, 2015

My Gabon–Israel–France–Monaco Grand Prix.

Haven’t been posting here for a while. The reason being that last week turned out to be horrendously hectic – without a single minute to spare for putting fingers to keyboard. Now for a bit of catch-up…

From last Monday to Saturday I managed to visit four countries on three continents: Gabon, Israel, France and Monaco. To do so six flights were necessary – on average one per day. Now, I’m no stranger to tight-schedulism, but last week was just daft: such all-out non-stopism is just too much for the body and soul. It took me the whole of the weekend after to get back to normal again.

All the same, though there wasn’t time for writing – there’s always time for snapping. Herewith, then, a quick photo-textual report of my very own international Grand Prix last week, split up into the four respective ‘laps’…

monaco-8

Read on: First stop – Gabon…

May 15, 2015

A province by the sea.

“Should you happen to be born in an empire,

It’s best to live in a remote province by the sea.”

Joseph Brodsky, Letters to a Roman Friend

Top of the day to you all, dear readers of my blog. Been away for a bit. Over the May holidays I was lucky enough to spend three days at the westernmost reaches of Russia: the Russian city of Kaliningrad, formerly the East Prussian city Königsberg. However, since the name Kalinin I don’t really like the sound or connotations of, I’m just going to call the place Königsgrad.

Old Brodsky was right. He said “it’s better to live in a remote province by the sea”. I’ve taken out the remote as, well, Königsgrad – which was where he wrote those words – can hardly be called remote these days as it’s fully connected to the world around it via (regular) planes, trains, automobiles, telecommunications and all the rest.

Boning up on the place, as I’m wont to do before a trip, I entered ‘MOW–KGD’ (that is, Moscow all airports – Khrabrovo (local airport)) into a search engine. Turns out there are 11 or more flights per day on that route. Hmmm, I wonder how many there are, say, Boston–New York? Turns out: 33+ – three times more. KUL–SIN (Kuala Lumpaa–Singapore): 38+; Beijing–Shanghai: 49+ per day; Tokyo–Osaka: 57+… I could go on with these curious comparisons, but 11+ per day for a region that has just around a million inhabitants – not bad at all.

So, Brodsky and Königsgrad…

According to various respected Brodskyites, his Postcard from City K and many of his other works were written here, under the influence of the favorable climate and other calming and positive aspects of the place. It’s possible that ‘Letters to a Roman Friend’ was also penned here.

Svetlogorsk. Nice name, nice place:

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Read on: Brodsky had it right…

May 11, 2015

The aquapark in Atlantis: not to be missed.

Beach-resort holidays (‘vegging out’) are not my thing. At all.

Sand, sun-loungers, parasols, ‘refreshing’ drinks and sunblock – I can survive that torture for two or three hours tops. Then I have to start strolling along the beach, sometimes a few kilometers at a time, oftentimes with camera. It beats lounging about any day. You walk along, get a tan, take a dip once in a while, take pictures along the way… Once, in the Dominicanan Republic, D.Z. and I strolled like that for some four hours. Afterwards we looked like models for a scary sunblock ad.

So yeah: beaches, sand, beach beds and basking in the sun are not for me. But!…

But #1. Some of our trips can be really hectic, involving flying across several time zones. As a result we get to the hotel not just tired, but totally wasted. If there’s nothing I have to do the next day and there’s a nice little beach close by, I can easily spend the day sleeping there. I’m pretty good at it. I lie down in the shade around midday and wake up at sunset, all rested, fresh, and ready to go.

But #2. We often organize our business events in beach hotels (which means that for me a beach has come to represent work rather than play:). Anyway, in our 18 years of active corporate life we’ve been pretty much everywhere. From Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. It works out real nice: we work in the daytime and can have a good time in the evening – resort-style. And often we stay for a couple more days after the business is done :).

I seem to be taking a long time getting to the subject of the waterpark at Atlantis, The Palm hotel resort in Dubai…

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Read on: Things to do in Dubai if you got some time to spend on yourself…

May 7, 2015

AV boost: exorcising the system-straining ghost.

Around the turn of the century we released the LEAST successful version of our antivirus products – EVER! I don’t mind admitting it: it was a mega-fail – overall. Curiously, the version also happened to be mega-powerful too when it came to protection against malware, and had settings galore and all sorts of other bells and whistles. The one thing that let it down though was that it was large and slow and cumbersome, particularly when compared with our previous versions.

I could play the subjunctiveness game here and start asking obvious questions like ‘who was to blame?’, ‘what should have been done differently?’, etc., but I’m not going to do that (I’ll just mention in passing that we made some very serious HR decisions back then). I could play ‘what if': who knows how different we as a company would be now if it wasn’t for that foul-up? Best though I think is to simply state how we realized we’d made a mistake, went back to the drawing board, and made sure our next version was way ahead of the competiton on EVERYTHING. Indeed, it was the engine that pushed us into domination in global antivirus retail sales, where our share continues to grow.

That’s right, our post-fail new products were ahead of everybody else’s by miles, including on performance, aka efficiency, aka how much system resources get used up during a scan. But still that… stench of sluggishness pursued us for years. Well, frankly, the smelliness is still giving us some trouble today. Memories are long, and they often don’t listen to new facts :). Also, back then our competitors put a lot of effort into trolling us – and still try to do so. Perhaps that’s because there’s nothing else – real nor current – to troll us for :).

Now though, here… time for some well-overdue spring cleaning. It’s time to clear up all the nonsense that’s accumulated over the years re our products’s efficiency once and for all…

Righty. Here are the results of recent antivirus product performance tests. Nothing but facts from a few respected testing labs – and it’s great food for thought. Have a look at the other vendors’ results, compare, and draw your own conclusions:

1. AVTest.org

I’ve said many times that if you want to get the truly objective picture, you need to look at the broadest possible range of tests from the longest possible historical perspective. There are notorious cases of certain vendors submitting ‘cranked up’ versions optimized for specific tests to test labs instead of the regular ‘working’ versions you get in the shops

The guys from the Magdeburg lab have done one heck of a job in analyzing the results achieved by 23 antivirus products during the past year (01/2014 – 01/2015) to determine how much each product slowed the computer down.

avtestorg

No comment!

Read on: a valuable advice to assess test results…

May 5, 2015

Four tickets to Aogashima – part 2. Hachijo-jima.

A summary of part 1:

07:00. Flight from Tokyo (Haneda) to Hachijo-jima, then a tight connection – helicopter flight to Aogashima, a day there trekking and climbing about, and looking at and taking pictures of every nook and cranny. Beautiful!

The next morning I had a vague sense of déjà-vu: waking up at the impossible hour of 07:30, but this time ‘Boy Scout style’, accompanied by a lively announcer’s voice from speakers all over the hotel: peem paam poom puum ohayo gozaimasu (that’s ‘good morning ‘in Japanese). Followed by a lot more Japanese chatter, of which I only picked out ‘arigato’ and ‘kudasai’. Then rise and shine, get up from the straw mattresses, breakfast – and back to the helipad.

Just to recap: there’s only one helicopter flight a day – if the weather’s good. If it’s bad, no helicopter flight. The Hachijo-jima–Aogashima flight leaves at 09:15 and arrives at the destination around 09:40 (based on our observations). After landing, a regular helipad bustle: unloading/loading freight from/to the ‘mainland’, boarding new passengers – Aogashima natives and stray tourists – and flying back.

Thus, the return flight dropped us off on Hachijo-jima at some 11:30. Our flight to Haneda was at 17:20, so we had some six hours on our hands. How were we to spend that time? Rent a car and go to the onsen hot springs, of course! At least, that was what some of us thought. Wrong! I looked at the map, saw a track leading to the top of the local volcanic blister, and we all proceeded to climb this local Hachijo-Fuji (apparently, all sacred mountains in Japan are called ‘Fuji’) in accordance with this sudden plan.

hachijojima-island-japan-1Source

2. hachijojima-island-japan-2

Read on: Not a bad sight at all!…

April 30, 2015

Four tickets to Aogashima.

The other day as I was browsing the Internet I came across a story about a most unusual place in Japan. It’s hard to get to but really worth the effort as it’s both beautiful and interesting. It’s the island of Aogashima, several hundred kilometers south of Tokyo, on the border between the Philippine Sea and the Pacific ocean. ‘That’s worth a look,’ I thought. Next thing… we were there – spending last Saturday on the island. A very curious place; highly recommended!

Now, let’s see what kind of an island it is…

Aogashima is a volcanic still-life made up of an ancient caldera that collapsed inwards, and the rather fetching cone of a new volcano that started to grow within it a few hundred years ago.

Aerial photos report the following:

aogashima-island-japan-1Source

2.

aogashima-island-japan-2Source

The first thing I did was call KL Japan to find out the details of this bizarre island, ask who might be ready to risk traveling there with me, and make other travel arrangements, which turned out to be rather complicated.

Read on: Yes, reaching that island proved anything but easy…

April 29, 2015

“Everybody be cool, this is a robbery.”

Startups – affairs that are risky and slow to build up momentum. They call for big cash, a knack for seeing into the future, and a nose for where the big returns on investment are. They take years to really get going; only one in twenty (or even more) doesn’t die a premature death.

Traditionally, venture capitalists have funded startups, but there’s a new type of venture capitalist on the block. They ask: ‘Why get all tense and take risks with startups, when it’s possible to invest in… patent trolls?! Easy! One such new kid on the block is the funder Bentham IMF (I don’t give the site address on purpose; hardly want to help this company out with their SEO efforts. You can find it if you really want to).

The math is reeaal simple: the funder gives out, say, one to ten million dollars for low risk patent cases against wealthy victim-companies, which can bring in no less than ten to a hundred million dollars payout, respectively (that is, they aim for around a ten-fold return on investment). Now, the fact that patent trolls in the US – even if they lose – don’t pay a penny to defendants, and the average % of awarded ‘damages’ or out-of-court-settlement payments can be up to 99%… well, it all adds up to a practically guaranteed-returns venture scheme! 

Who the heck needs innovation? Much better: ‘invest’ money in small patent trolls so they can shake down litigate against the innovators. Wonderful. The American Dream turned inside-out and upside-down. The new American Patent Dream in full effect!

Bentham IMF

Of course, there’s an official basis to this legitimatized extortion – the support of law, universal justice and punishment of rotten violators. But no matter how much it’s talked up, there’s still no getting away from the simple fact: a troll is a troll.

Read on: Stratospherically absurd and wrong and bad things in the world of patent extortion…

April 28, 2015

Cool your boots, Japan.

Tired after a seemingly endless journey, the long-distance traveler normally resorts to some kind of body of water first in his/her attempt at winding down, chilling out a bit, and returning from zombie state to kinda normal state. Usually a shower, sometimes a bath – sometimes even a banya and its attendant cold pool!

But only in Japan can one hope to reap the mega-chillage effects of a ryokan, which mixes bathing with a fantastic culinary experience to have you back all recharged and fully energized in no time at all. Which is what happened to me recently at Izukogen Hanafubuki Ryokan on the Izu Peninsula (伊豆), not far from Mount Fuji, Japan. Cool our boots, man, we sure did.

In case anyone doesn’t know what a ryokan is, let me tell you that it is a traditional Japanese hotel, usually not too big, with straw mattresses on the floor, offering super-duper Japanese food plus sometimes hot springs to dip in.

If you’re not Japanese, however, you have to be careful. You’ll need to bone up on the Japanese culture first, as it’s easy to put the proverbial foot in it with some faux pas that will cause upset at best, an international scandal at worst :). Best of all is to visit a ryokan with Japanese friends or colleagues, then there’s no chance of unintended mix-ups/offense. Accompanied by locals, you’re safely under their wing, so can feel just like a Japanese: blissfully content to recuperate for a few days, feed the soul, and revitalize the spirit.

And it’s not just the food and waters that act as a tonic to the body and soul – there’s also all the cherry blossoms still a-blooming here, picturesque little cottages, cozy little paths and an overall abundance of fauna and flora. Most fine.

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Why are we here?

Read on: Rainy day at volcano…

April 24, 2015

Singapore through the eyes of a first-timer.

Hi all!

D.Z. – this is one of most distinguished and respected KLers, with us since last century (taking a brief creative break in the mid-2000s). D.Z. has also been my fellow traveler a d.z.illion times to… oh, practically everywhere on this planet – but surprisingly not to Singapore. He always takes with him a trusty large black (super-duper) DSLR camera with a dozen or so different lenses too – his tools to create most of the pro-level pics on this here blog and elsewhere. He’s also a great storyteller, so he helps out with all the tales I want to tell – whatever they may be about. Still, despite all these talents, plus his confirmed KL-Establishment member status, he is nevertheless the most modest guy you’d ever meet.

D.Z. et moiMr. modest… et moi (1999)

Like I say, somewhat surprisingly this was D.Z.’s first visit to Singapore. He liked the place so much he took more pics than he normally does and wrote a long write-up too. It’s true that there’s ‘nothing like the first time’. It’s also true that a fresh pair of eyes will see things in a foreign place that others who’ve been several times before already miss due to familiarity – or just plain tiredness from the non-stop globetrotting. Thus, in this post, I pass the reins over to D.Z. to let him give his ‘first-time’ account of this remarkable city – just for a different, fresher perspective.

My only comment to the story: want one book to read to get the real real deal on Singapore? Check it: Lee Kuan Yew – ‘From Third World to First

So, D.Z.’s tale:

—-8<—-

What do we know about Singapore?

It’s a long way away, hot and humid, skyscraping, totalitarian, and they beat you with sticks for dropping gum, spitting, walking barefoot, and other carnal sins. At least, those are the stereotypes impressions of I’d say the majority of non-Singaporeans from afar, for those are the bits that seem to end up in the world’s media about this city-state extraordinaire.

This was my first time in Singapore.

What I saw with my own eyes was far from what I expected – nothing like the above-described imaginings. I have habit of boning up on a country I’m planning on traveling to – to get to know the ‘real’ place and not get caught up in lazy stereotypes and maybe inadvertently insult or upset or annoy anyone. And Singapore’s real deal fairly amazed and intrigued me. The first half of the 19th century is packed with curious history I’d let pass me by, but it’s fascinating how it’s connected with all sorts of details of international relations of my time. 

Collisions of civilizations, a struggle for colonies and trade routes, the friction within and among European and Asian powers, wars, injustice, betrayal, greed and other unpleasantness… Singapore had more than its fair share of all of them. Its history is peppered with nightmare tales, but all the same, in spite of all that, today it stands as the shining example of a successful state based on humane, productive cooperation among peoples, helped by being at an important crossroads of civilization.

A natural competitive advantage of Singapore is its geographical location on a strategic sea route connecting East Asia with the rest of the world. Despite miraculous diversification of the economy in its 50 years of independence, already on the approach to Changi airport it becomes clear how this advantage still plays a hugely important role in the development of the country.

DSC_6506

Back in 1819 it was exclusively the geography of the island that made Britain’s Sir Stamford Raffles set up on the bank of the Singapore River a watch post. Within just several years it had become an important hub of influence of the British Empire in Asia.

Singapore was founded not on an empty greenfield site but on a longstanding fishing village in which folks of different nationalities and religious faiths had lived peacefully for a long time. The arrival of the British naturally saw the town take on a decidedly more European flavor. And, talking of flavors, incidentally the resultant Singaporean cuisine came to be a most interesting and original one – the dishes both tasty and unique.

Having founded Singapore, Raffles left it for a few years to do yet more of his bit for the Empire, handing over the reins to a Major-General William Farquhar for the duration. Upon Raffles‘ return three years later, he was met with two main developments – basically good news and bad. The good news was that the town had gotten much busier and bigger. The bad – it had gotten much busier and bigger un-systemically, resembling an eastern bazar than an exemplary model of a colony of the British Empire.

So a town council was quickly created under the supervision a Lieutenant Jackson, who soon developed a plan for the reconstruction of Singapore. In the main, it was divided up based on the ethnicity of the inhabitants; thus, European, Chinese, Indian, and Arab (Muslim) quarters emerged.

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It might seem correct at this point to label Jackson an out and out racist and accomplice in apartheid. However, it turned out that such division suited everyone just fine! Each group was happy to cook in its own juices – yet still work closely together; indeed, they’d be doing so for centuries before Raffles. Since then of course, in almost in 200 years, a lot has changed; all the same the main traits of the town-building designs of Jackson remain.

Singapore has two principal must-visits – Little India and Chinatown. Guess which ethnic nationalities make up most of their populations? Yep – Indians and Chinese, respectively, even after all these years. In fact the delineation is blurring somewhat, with many an Indian and much Indian signage to be seen in Chinatown, and vice versa. The result is a serious bit of multiculturalism: Pagodas, stupas, mandirs (Hindu temples), mosques and churches all together peacefully coexisting on small squares. Nice. All the same, the dominating cultural ‘signature’ of the districts remains.

chinatown-singapore-26

Read on: Chinatown vs Little India…

April 21, 2015

INTERNET-INTERPOL-2015.

I first used the term ‘Internet-INTERPOL’ somewhere around the start of the 2000s. The first time I got round to writing it down was in 2003. This year – 2015 – some 12 years later, finally, what I’ve been talking about, pushing for, advocating, promoting all these years is here:

An INTERPOL division dedicated exclusively to combatting the dark side of the Internet!

Yep, just the other week in sunny Singapore INTERPOL officially opened its new cyber-division – IGCI – whose mission is to clear cyberspace of all things criminal and similarly bogus. It will act as the coordinating center for all international cyber-related activities of police forces of all its member states (nearly 200 countries!). In short: international hackerism and other net-diseases – watch out, CYBERPOL is here for good to make your lives miserable and increasingly risky. Besides investigations it will also be training specialists, promoting the cybercrime fight, and doing a whole lot of other helpful stuff in the name of ww-security for the www.

This opening really is no less than monumentally significant. Up until now cyber-villains have been running amok in part due to a lack of unity among national law enforcement bodies – aka different jurisdictions not talking too much with one another. Like the classic FBI vs. CIA vs. regular cops thing that’s been shown in Hollywood movies since the year dot. But this is real folks! Example:

Late last year one cop was asking us for the contact details of certain other cops from a different country! Asking us! Of course – it should be the other way round: all cops knowing each other and their passing on our contact details when they need some cyber-expertise! Indeed, the two systems’ coexistence (the cybercrims’ one without borders, and state cyber-police’s within the jurisdictions of national borders, or, at best, within the European border) has always been a problem. And it’s only gotten worse over the past 15 years or so – with increasingly brazen cyber-swine doing their stuff practically with impunity. Some of them have been caught and punished, but in the main, those were just the tip of the iceberg.

What makes last week’s event in Singapore even more special for us is that the IGCI was opened with our active participation plus support of various kinds – organizational, consultative, financial, and even personnel. For example, one of our top experts, V.K., is now our assigned ‘man in Singapore’, having been living in the city state and working with INTERPOL for several months already, and set to continue for much longer. He’s helping his INTERPOL colleagues develop and deepen their cyber-knowledge and practical cyber-skills, and even takes part in ongoing investigations. And he’s as happy as a sand boy.

Vitaly Kamluk, our man in INTERPOLV.K. minus the trademark Mohican

Read on: INTERPOL can party too…