NOTA BENE

Notes, comment and buzz from Eugene Kaspersky – Official Blog

March 28, 2015

Hold on tight! In an off-road vehicle – off-road in Utah.

A few words about the vehicle that transported us about in Utah. And let’s not forget the super chauffeur…

Here she is, a classic of the genre, giving the Land Rover Defender a run for its money: the Toyota Land Cruiser. Quite an old one at that. Only demonstrates the ruggedness of this remarkable 4×4:

Utah on the road again

At first I wondered why the need for such large wheels and tires…

Utah on the road again

… I quickly found out: Extreme off-roadness!

Read on: unevenness, rocks, boulders, jaggedness and steep slopes…

March 27, 2015

A quick guide to Utah arches.

Why this national park is called the Arches is a rhetorical question. But if you haven’t been following this mini-on-the-road series from Utah, then read this.

Yes, you want huge natural rock arches – you need to come here. There’s just so much awesome archness here. Wikipedia says there are as many as 2000 here, ranging from the meager to the massive, and from the weird to the wonderful. In our day here we managed to see just nine! They were: Surprise, Skull, Delicate, Tower, Skyline, (the two) Windows, Turret and Double Arch.

Let me jump in here at the deep end: the most beautiful and most famous (and that takes into account desktop wallpaper:) arch of them all is… this one here – Delicate Arch:

Arches National Park Utah

Read on: 70 spellbinding sights…

March 25, 2015

U tire of Utah’s canyons? Not possible!

The red rocks of Utah – a simply captivating sight; from the outside, that is, which is what we checked out yesterday. Today it was time we had a look at all this from the inside. So off we headed to the Arches National Park‘s Fiery Furnace rocky massif. This is what we saw…

arches-utah-intro-1

Read on: Woh! Surprise surprise!…

March 24, 2015

The Utah Saints: Crimson columns and massive mushrooms.

Since the previous day my brain had been variously boggling and boiling. This was eased a little by steam being emitted from said boggling and boiling brain out via my camera, but that alleviation process then went too far, leading poor brain into a state of half dehydration.

The diagnosis sounds like this:

I’ve (finally) been to the canyons of Utah!

Eyeballs fairy exploded, jaws drooped down to waist level, tongues hung out of mouths, minds… simply blown. Cameras – white hot with non-stop use! The latter in fact were the only things that didn’t completely lose the plot. The human beings and their mentioned body parts however just conked – unable to the take in unencompassable – in the red and white canyons of Utah.

mushrooms_1

Read on: Not bad, eh? This pic was just for starters…

March 20, 2015

A practical guide to making up a sensation.

There are many ways to make up something sensationalist in the media. One of the practical ways is to speculate and create conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, there’s a demand for such stories and they have a very good chance of making a splash.

So how can a global company with Russian roots play a part in a conspiracy theory? Well, this one is easy: there should be some devilish inner job of the Russian secret services (to produce the “I knew it!” effect). In many cases you can change the adjective “Russian” for any other to produce a similar effect. It’s a simple yet effective hands-on recipe for a sensationalist article. Exploiting paranoia is always a great tool for increasing readership.

There are questions we’ve answered a million times: what are our links with the KGB? Why do you expose cyber-campaigns by Western intelligence services? When do you plan to hire Edward Snowden? And other ones of the ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’ kind.

We’re a transparent company, so we’ve got detailed answers ready. Of course we want to dispel any speculation about our participation in any conspiracy. We’ve nothing to hide: we’re in the security business and to be successful in it you have to be open to scrutiny.

To my great regret, there are occasions when journalists publish something sensationalist without taking account obvious and/or easily obtainable facts contrary to their sensationalist claims, and produce stories that are at odds with professional ethics. And sometimes a bad tabloid journalism style finds its way into otherwise quality media publications. I’d like to comment on one such case.

The fashionable fever of looking for Kremlin-linked conspiracies this week reached some journalists at Bloomberg. Curiously, this happened not long after our investigation into the Equation Group.

https://twitter.com/e_kaspersky/status/578854016685232128

It’s been a long time since I read an article so inaccurate from the get-go – literally from the title and the article’s subheading. So it came as little surprise that a large part of the rest of the article is simply false. Speculations, assumptions and unfair conclusions based on incorrect facts. In their pursuit for a sensation, the journalists turned things upside down and ignored some blatantly obvious facts.

My congratulations to the authors: they’ve scored high in bad journalism.

But that’s where the emotion stops today. Now let’s just look at the cold facts – rather, lack of them. Let me go through some of the most outrageous and twisted gaffes.

Bloomberg bullshit

I must have said this a million times, but we do not care who’s behind the cyber-campaigns we expose. There is cyber-evil and we fight it. If a customer comes and shows us a problem we investigate it. And once we take the genie out of the bottle, there’s no way we can put it back.

But since these journalists tried to attribute the cyberattacks we exposed to the countries mentioned, for some reason they forgot about our reports on Red OctoberCloudAtlas, Miniduke, CosmicDuke, Epic Turla, Penguin Turla, Black Energy 1 and 2, Agent.BTZ, and Teamspy. According to some observers, these attacks were attributed to Russian cyber-spies.

Bloomberg bullshit

The only other statement that can compete with this one in terms of frequency, silliness and falsity is: ‘AV companies write the virus themselves’.

Let me spell it out and use a few capitals: I’ve NEVER worked for the KGB.

My detailed biography has been widely distributed around the world and can be easily found online. It clearly states (I wonder if the journalists read it) that I studied mathematics at a school sponsored by they Ministry of Atomic Energy, the Ministry of Defense, the Soviet Space Agency and the KGB. After graduating, I worked for the Ministry of Defense as a software engineer for several years. But whatever… as they say, ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story’. Right?

UPDATE:

bloomberg-lies-update

Looks like the Bloopberg journos behind the story read my post (but not in detail; otherwise they’d have taken the article down) and made a minor edit to their text. Now, I never worked for KGB but for … Russian military intelligence!

For the record: I never worked for Russian military intelligence. As I mentioned above, I worked as a software engineer at the Ministry of Defense.

https://twitter.com/rik_ferguson/status/578847567091486720

Bloomberg bullshit

Is there an implication here that the ‘quickly removed by headquarters’ was to cover up some secret truth – before it got out? Maybe not. But if you do see a possible one, let me tell you what happened:

the design of the our antivirus software box with the KGB mention was developed by our Japanese partners. I learned about it only after it was printed, and asked to have it changed as it just wasn’t true, which was done.

And if there’s a further implication that the mention was removed because we were going global and recruiting ‘senior managers in the U.S. and Europe’ (with whom KGB mentions might not sit well), well then that’s not right either. We were already global. Our American, European and Asian employees (who now make up more than a third of total company’s headcount) had no say in it. Even if they did – so what? Bottom line – I never served in the KGB!

Bloomberg bullshit

Just nonsense!

First, people join and leave organizations all the time. Second, we value only professional qualities in our people. Third, there’s no evidence of ‘closer’ – not even close – ties to Russia’s military or intelligence services. Must say though, I’d be really interested to find out who’s joined our top management team since 2012 who has ‘closer ties to Russia’s military or intelligence services’. I’m dying of curiosity!

Bloomberg bullshit

I do appreciate this interest in my recreational-prophylactic habits. While the reader may visualize naked male bodies in a steam room and dicussions of conspirational plans to conquer the world, the truth of the matter is quite something else. It highlights another way in which the journalists ignored our emailed comments to them to sacrifice objectivity for quirky details and stereotypes.

First, sometimes I do go to the banya (sauna) with my colleagues. It’s not impossible that there might be Russian intelligence officials visiting the same building simultaneously with me, but I don’t know them.

https://twitter.com/e_kaspersky/status/578913929579139072

Second, we do fight cybercrime. And without cooperating with law enforcement agencies around the globe (including in the U.S., the UK, Japan, other European countries; INTERPOL and Europol) our battle would have been significantly less effective than it has been recreational – if not completely futile.

Official meetings sometimes do turn pretty informal, including with officers belonging to the security services of the U.S., the UK, Japan, other European countries; INTERPOL and Europol (oops, I’m repeating myself). And I consider the stories about my possible encounters with security officials in a banya an attempt to deliberately mislead readers; the journalists don’t mention that we are impartial in our fight against cybercrime, no matter where it strikes. A warning, dear readers: don’t believe everything you read!

Bloomberg bullshit

‘Gotcha, we’ve caught you! You investigate only US operations and not Russian!’

Well, this one’s real simple. FireEye did some great research, so publishing our own after theirs made no sense. We carefully read the FireEye report, warned our users and… kept on researching the Sofacy operation. BTW, our experts are still working on it, as it’s closely connected to the MiniDuke operation. But please don’t ask why FireEye didn’t announce MiniDuke! You know the answer (hint: who was the first to uncover it?).

https://twitter.com/codelancer/status/578920630243950592

Bloomberg bullshit

That is false statement.

We’ve launched an internal investigation, carefully examined all our archives for the last three years, and haven’t found such an email. Those who know Garry personally know he’s not the kind of man to write such things.

Bloomberg bullshit

Does two-year compulsory military service of 18-year old private Chekunov equal working for the KGB? Really? Dear authors, why did you miss the detail where, in the USSR, military service was obligatory for all males, and it was random which particular service you served in? Some entered the infantry, others the submarine division of the navy. Mr. Chekunov served in the Soviet Union’s Border Service for two years, and at that time the service reported to the KGB.

Bloomberg bullshit

Oh those Russians banya nights. The nerve center of all secret operations’ planning!

Actually, here, thanks are due to the authors for the PR! Our Computer Incidents Investigation Unit (CIIU) helps our clients deal with sophisticated cyber-incidents. If law enforcement agencies contact us, we help – regardless of their country. We assist with our world-class expertise any law enforcement agency to save the world from any cyber-evil.

https://twitter.com/RidT/status/578917348360523776

Bloomberg bullshit

The Computer Incidents Investigation Unit (CIIU) has remote access to the personal data of our users? That is a false statement.

Next: the keyword here is ‘can’. Theoretically, any security vendor can do that. Following this logic you can imagine what nasty things Facebook, Google or Microsoft can theoretically do. Theoretically, authors of an article can stick to facts.

The reality, however, is that I’ve no reason to risk my 700mln$ business. Everything we do and can do is stated in the End-User License Agreement (EULA). Moreover, we reveal our source code to large customers and governments. If you have any fears about backdoors – come and check. Seriously. Referring to a theory is an allegation unworthy of a respectable publication.

Bloomberg bullshit

This part explains a lot. Some folks who get fired have a chip on their shoulder. Human nature. It’s common. They have some media contacts – they fancy getting their ‘revenge’. Same old!

I am just worried about how respected media put their reputation on the line based on speculation. As a result we have a perfect example of a sensationalist headline:

Bloomberg bullshit

https://twitter.com/e_kaspersky/status/578825444776116224

The result of the investigative journalism revealed these REAL facts:

  • I go to banya;
  • 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.

 
Mysterious covert data which proves I’m a KGB spy?! This world-famous news agency undertook a huge investigation – believe me, it was impressive! During the fact checking they asked very detailed, probing questions, yet all they came up with were… unproved allegations. Do you know why?

Because there’s nothing there to find.

It’s very hard for a company with Russian roots to become successful in the  U.S., European and other markets. Nobody trusts us – by default. Our only strategy is to be 1000% transparent and honest. It took years to explain who we are. Many people attempted to find ‘dirt’ on us – and failed. Because we’ve nothing to hide.

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.

‘The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there’s no cat.”

.@e_kaspersky responds to Bloomberg’s allegations in connection with Russian LETweet

So, tell me, what do you think of this whole story:

March 19, 2015

Bonny Bonneville. Salty Utah.

Still in the US toing and froing between cities, we decided to make a quick stop in a town I’d never heard of: Wendover, Utah State. The town houses the nearest airport to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats. A saliently saline splendid spot!

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Read on: The mirages on the horizon…

March 18, 2015

Massachusetts snow woe, and a US-AV decade of champions.

I’ve been in the USA countless times.

Usually it’s just for short stays with a few different places to visit, but there’s normally plenty of interesting tales to tell afterwards. Not this time! This time it was business, business, and again business. In this post, alas, there’ll be nothing too riveting for you, dear reader – just a few curious items…

…The first being… SNOW!

Now, you might think there’s no way a Russian could ever be interested in snow in other countries. Coals to Newcastle, right? But you’d be wrong. For this is the first time in my life I’ve ever seen SO MUCH SNOW – right here, in the U. S. of A.! A knee-jerk, subconscious urge was willing me to be offended: ‘How’s it possible? Give us our patented, trademarked snow back!!’ One word: odd. No, one more word: unexpected.

Snow woe

Boston snowA far cry from the Everglades a day earlier :)

Read on: Celebrating 10 years of KL business in US…

March 17, 2015

Independent AV testing in 2014: interesting results!

At KL we’re always at it. Improving ourselves, that is. Our research, our development, our products, our partnerships, our… yes – all that. But for us all to keep improving – and in the right direction – we all need to work toward one overarching goal, or mission. Enter the mission statement…

Ours is saving the world from cyber-menaces of all types. But how well do we do this? After all, a lot, if not all AV vendors have similar mission statements. So what we and – more importantly – the user needs to know is precisely how well we perform in fulfilling our mission – compared to all the rest…

To do this, various metrics are used. And one of the most important is the expert testing of the quality of products and technologies by different independent testing labs. It’s simple really: the better the result on this or that – or all – criteria, the better our tech is at combatting cyber-disease – to objectively better save the world :).

Thing is, out of all the hundreds of tests by the many independent testing centers around the world, which should be used? I mean, how can all the data be sorted and refined to leave hard, meaningful – and easy to understand and compare – results? There’s also the problem of there being not only hundreds of testing labs but also hundreds of AV vendors so, again, how can it all be sieved – to remove the chaff from the wheat and to then compare just the best wheat? There’s one more problem (it’s actually not that complex, I promise – you’ll see:) – that of biased or selective test results, which don’t give the full picture – the stuff of advertising and marketing since year dot.

Well guess what. Some years back we devised the following simple formula for accessible, accurate, honest AV evaluation: the Top-3 Rating Matrix!.

So how’s it work?

First, we need to make sure we include the results of all well-known and respected, fully independent test labs in their comparative anti-malware protection investigations over the given period of time.

Second, we need to include all the different types of tests of the chosen key testers – and on all participating vendors.

Third, we need to take into account (i) the total number of tests in which each vendor took part; (ii) the % of ‘gold medals'; and (iii) the % of top-3 places.

What we get is simplicity, transparency, meaningful sifting, and no skewed ‘test marketing’ (alas, there is such a thing). Of course it would be possible to add into the matrix another, say, 25,000 parameters – just for that extra 0.025% of objectivity, but that would only be for the satisfaction of technological narcissists and other geek-nerds, and we’d definitely lose the average user… and maybe the not-so-average one too.

To summarize: we take a specific period, take into account all the tests of all the best test labs (on all the main vendors), and don’t miss a thing (like poor results in this or that test) – and that goes for KL of course too.

All righty. Theory over. Now let’s apply that methodology to the real world; specifically – the real world in 2014.

First, a few tech details and disclaimers for those of the geeky-nerdy persuasion:

  • Considered in 2014 were the comparative studies of eight independent testing labs (with: years of experience, the requisite technological set-up (I saw some for myself), outstanding industry coverage – both of the vendors and of the different protective technologies, and full membership of AMTSO) : AV-Comparatives, AV-Test, Anti-malware, Dennis Technology Labs, MRG EFFITAS, NSS Labs, PC Security Labs and Virus Bulletin. A detailed explanation of the methodology – in this video and in this document.
  • Only vendors taking part in 35% or more of the labs’ tests were taken into account. Otherwise it would be possible to get a ‘winner’ that did well in just a few tests, but which wouldn’t have done well consistently over many tests – if it had taken part in them (so here’s where we filter out the faux-test marketing).

Soooo… analyzing the results of the tests in 2014, we get……..

….Drums roll….

….mouths are cupped….

….breath is bated….

……..we get this!:

Independent testing 2014:  the results

Read on: Are all washing powder brands the same?…

March 14, 2015

Crocs in the shade – in the Everglades.

To be in Miami as a tourist and not get a visit to the Everglades in is a bit like… going to Manhattan as a tourist and not seeing Broadway and Times Square: it just doesn’t make any sense. Mind you, visiting the Everglades in anything but an airboat makes little sense too: going ‘on foot’ – or swimming (!) – is out of the question: the Everglades are crocodile infested swamps; and going on any other means of transport is also a no-no: only airboats manage to navigate these unique swamp-scapes cut with dense grassy shrubbery.

Florida, Everglades National Park

Read on: Crocs & yikes!…

March 12, 2015

Miami Nice.

There exist in the world a great many beautiful mountains, volcanoes, cliffs, caves, valleys, lakes, geysers, glaciers, and a whole load of other natural phenomena. But there exist a great many beautiful man-made phenomena too. And that includes some really rad roads.

The most beautiful road (of course, I mean the views therefrom and therealong, not the prettiness of the asphalt:), IMHO, is in New Zealand. It’s the road to Milford Sound. There are plenty of others dotted around the globe that come near to it in terms of awesomeness: There’s the Great Ocean Road in nearby Australia. There’s the coast road of California; Route 360 on Maui, Hawaii; the road from Platja d’Aro to Lloret de Mar in Spain; the Amalfi Coast road near Naples; the roads of Crete, and many more which I’ve yet to motor along.

Just recently I checked off another entry on the list of must-drive roads of the world. Yep, I finally got round to cruising along the resplendent road to Key West, at the very bottom tip of Florida. Key West is the last in a long line of islands that stretch from the US mainland on the outskirts of Miami out towards Cuba – all connected by a road. Nice. Miami Nice. Kuril Islands governor – take note!

From Miami to Key West

From Miami to Key West

Read on: tropical paradise here and there…