NOTA BENE

Notes, comment and buzz from Eugene Kaspersky – Official Blog

January 22, 2015

‘Consumer champions’ coming after you? Show them who’s really champ by standing up to them! 

Law firms. Traditionally such a necessary and benevolent force for good throughout the world. Regulating business, following rules, enforcing rules, getting justice… That’s how many and maybe even I once viewed much of the law profession last century. But this century…

It reminds me of Animalism. Or, to be more precise, originally the seventh commandment of Animalism: ‘All animals are equal’.

We all know how it was amended, becoming ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’. And that phrase in particular brings to mind many law firms today. Some are fair, benign and indispensable and play by the rule-book. Others are more equal than others: unfair, malignant, superfluous and scornful of the rule-book: operating seemingly outside the law – above the law – when they’re the ones that should be upholding it! Yep ladies and gents, I’m talking about the unscrupulous law firms that manipulate laws and moral norms to extract a pretty penny from large (and sometimes not so large) companies – which have done nothing wrong!

I’ve already written plenty about patent trolls (and how we have a policy of never giving in to them). Today I’ll be telling you about a similar phenomenon we recently came up against…

So what’s all this about?

Picture the mise-en-scène:

Take a manufacturer of a consumer good. A law firm decides to uncover an alleged small flaw in that consumer good (and one can be found in any consumer good; these guys are like wizards in making them appear anywhere), and once they find the best ‘defect’ they seek out a supposedly affected and aggrieved consumer, who then files a claim against the manufacturer, but not just on his or her own behalf, also on that of a large group in a class action lawsuit claiming violation of consumer rights. A website is created and an advertising campaign is launched (no joke) calling on consumers to join their concerted effort against the ‘excesses, unfairness and incompetence’ of the alleged guilty party.

At first blush the intentions of one of these campaigns and the corresponding slogans look convincing and honorable. It can indeed seem that it’s just the small people being gallantly looked after. And from a legal standpoint it does look like all is well-intentioned, good and proper. But all you have to do is probe a little deeper, and a different– vastly different –picture then comes into view: one resembling deceit and underhandedness (to put it politely), or sham/scam (to be less polite but no less accurate)!

This particular business model first took root in the good ole U.S. of A. a long time ago, somewhere in the last century. Today, consumer class actions in America have become serious business. There are dedicated websites that keep track of all such litigation and that send emails out listing new such class actions and agreements and how to easily sign up to them with a few keystrokes on the keyboard. Ten bucks here, another ten there… a tidy sum of extra income can be earned.

Now, to large multinational companies with multimillion dollar turnovers these class actions hardly even register, like a flea-bite to an elephant. However, for not-so-big companies, like for example small software vendors, class actions add up to huge sums having to be taken out of the pot for development of new technologies; often it’s simpler to just declare bankruptcy and start the business over.

Now, I don’t know how many tens of thousands of lawyers earn their living feeding at this trough (Animal Farm-related pun not intended) or what the annual turnover is ($6-8 billion has been estimated), but what I do know is that it’s very widespread. And I also know for sure – they openly admit it themselves – that the main reason these lawyers go for class actions is just because the like them (fast forward to 2:11).

And it’s small wonder why they like them. Costs are minimal (they don’t even need to buy up patents!), and the courts’ default stance is to be on the side of the consumer ‘victims’ – protecting them from the ‘excesses of capitalism’. It’s also small wonder that the other victims in this sorry state of affairs – the companies that are targeted by this extortion – prefer to negotiate than fight through the courts: many don’t have the wherewithal to go to court (it’s never cheap), and for some it’s a lot simpler and economically more viable to just pay the ransom instead of having their legal department get bogged down for eons. As a result this industry flourishes as more and more lawyers pour into it after getting a whiff of the easy bucks.

Still not convinced these wholesome attorneys aren’t just wanting to line their pockets and in fact only just want to protect the rights of consumers?

Then let me give you an example…

One of our competitors (the information is public domain already, but all the same I think it’s only right not to mention any names) recently settled a class action lawsuit and paid $700,000 to the lawyers of the suer, $1.25 million to third organizations, and $9 plus three months’ free use of its product to each participating consumer! So there you have it folks: straight-up, honest looking after the poor consumer, plain and simple for all to see :).

Precisely a year ago we found out we were to be targeted by a set of these white-collar ‘consumer champions’. But they needn’t have wasted their time…

For we have a firm policy for how to deal with such unscrupulous behavior: no negotiations. Instead, we fight – to the end. It’s not the easy way out that’s for sure, or the cheapest one, but it’s worth it – especially if they go off with their tales between their legs and never come back.

So, like I say, exactly one year ago we were hit with one of these sham(eful) lawsuits, from a certain Barbara Machowicz (and her representative, the law firm Edelson). It was brought against our free Kaspersky Security Scan (KSS). They alleged “[that they were] fraudulently induced to buy [KL’s] security software through … KSS, which is purportedly designed to ‘detect unwanted malware, software vulnerabilities, and other non-malware security problems’ “ and “that KSS is essentially ‘scareware’ engineered to detect fake security threats”.

And btw, this Edelson (surely just by a coincidence) was the law firm that brought the case against our competitor mentioned above. Fancy that?! Taking another closer look (the devil’s always in the details in these matters), we found out that they’d decided to simply do a repeat of their lawsuit against our competitor: basically, the claims against KSS were mostly copied word-for-word from it. I can just see the MS Word template used for the statement of claim, with blanks left for just the name of the defendant :).

Just how we were defamed in the statement of claim with their groundless accusations… I won’t go into here; that wouldn’t be quite proper. All I’ll say is that we didn’t ignore the statement or regard it lightly. After having received it we took it seriously (despite the wholly unserious allegations) and started to analyze what’s afoot. And sure enough, soon enough, all became clear.

KSS scans a computer for malicious and suspicious programs, system and application vulnerabilities, the correctness of settings, and other particulars that could affect the security of the computer. Ms. Machowicz had KSS scan her comp, and though it didn’t find any viruses, it did find a slew of vulnerabilities, including dangerous Windows and Internet Explorer settings, USB and CD auto-runs, cookies being saved, and caching of data received via https. As a result, KSS rightly issued Ms. Machowicz its verdict: ‘Your computer could be at risk. Problems found!’

Kaspersky Security Scanner Free Antivirus

Read on: This is how the story ended up…

January 16, 2015

Encrypted communications and real-world security: finding a balance

The latest debate that followed David Cameron’s proposal to ban encrypted personal communications in the UK has raised several very important issues.

The proposal would include a ban on messaging services like WhatsApp, iMessage or Snapchat in the UK. Technically this is possible to do, however such a ban on using all encrypted communication channels is not easy to enforce.

And I doubt that it will actually bring significantly more security to offline UK.

The mandate of the security services and law enforcement agencies is to keep the general public safe from criminals, terrorists and all sort of other threats. It seems that the security services want to be able to access our communications in order to be able to stop and prevent illegal activities and, ultimately, better protect people.

Encryption is vital for cybersecurity; it’s used first and foremost to keep communications safe from hackers and cybercriminals.
Do we need to give up the protection of our our data and online communications in order to improve real-world security? I seriously doubt we should.

I think that, if implemented, a ban on the use of encryption in online communication will not tangibly increase offline security. But it will definitely damage the state of cybersecurity and ultimately expose ordinary users as well as businesses to all sorts of cyberattacks, hacks and espionage.

Governments have made attempts to compromise cybersecurity to gain intelligence. For example, we have already seen government-grade malware, such as Flame, exploiting legitimate software, such as Microsoft Update, among other things.

I don’t know the value of the intelligence they obtained during this operation, but the existence of such malware did not contribute positively to global cybersecurity.

I think the real problem here is that global leaders and security services apparently see a contradiction between security and cybersecurity; while the latter should in fact be an integral and valuable part of the former.

December 26, 2014

My 2014: A rush and a push and the land is ours and crisscrossed. 

There are just a few days left of this year, so I’d better rush and push and go over 2014 in review, before I get on to congratulating everyone for having a super year and wishing all the best for a supreme 2015…

So what was what, where, why, how, eh, and all that…

Geographical firsts.

Three years ago I came up with a list of what I reckon are the ‘Top-100 Must-See Places in the World‘ – a list of what I consider are the most mind-blowing sights around the planet. I hadn’t been to all the listed places – many were still left to ‘do’. This keeps things interesting – at least for moi! – as I get to keep steadily adding checks against the still-to-do’s (normally while on business trips – can’t beat two birds with one stone and all :).

In 2014 – six new checks:

– Patagonia;
– Big Island, Hawaii (details here and here);
– Norwegian Fjords;
– The Kurils;
– The tunnels of Jerusalem;
Kathmandu, Nepal.

So what else did I get to see this year that wouldn’t fit in the Top-100?

Four very impressive locations:

– The cliffs of Western Ireland (details here and here);
– The cliffs of Southern Portugal;
– Around and about Monaco;
Mount Fuji – again.

The Irish cliffs are like totally worthy of inclusion in my Top-100; however, for them to be included some place would have to be removed. But what? No easy task…

Here are a few more curious events from the past year… mostly a lot closer to home than the exotic locations of most of the Top-100:

– Meeting Angela Merkel;
– Buying an elephant;
– Witnessing a launch of Soyuz at Baikonur;
– Experiencing weightlessness;
– Being on Japan’s main TV channel;
– Our office being named the ‘Best Office in Moscow, 2014′.

Brand EK.

I’ve been doing fairly intense KL-PR stuff for years already. This year it was as intensive as ever…

– 50+ ‘top-tier’ (PR/media jargon) live interviews;
– 40+ presentations;
– 30 press conferences;
– 3 photo sessions.

All the above figures and events give us the following auxiliary stats too:

– 95 flights, 375 hours in the air;
– 45 new cities (maybe a few more – some might have slipped through the net);
– 3 new countries: Kazakhstan, Nepal, Luxembourg.

Transferring all the above onto a world map, we get the following. Red spots – business; green – tourism:

2014 in my eyes

And here’s a rundown of the trajectory of my movements around the globe, as extracted from my scribbles in my trusty travelogue-notepad:

Moscow – London – Davos – Tel Aviv – Moscow. Punta Cana – Sao Paulo – Brazil – Punta Arenas – Riyadh – Rome – Hannover – Seoul – Sanya – Moscow. Baikonur. Washington – Boston – Hawaii – San Francisco – Moscow. London again. Tokyo. London, Monaco. Munich, Bergen, Hong Kong – Kathmandu – Mumbai – Geneva – Moscow. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky – Kuril Islands – Yuzhno–Sakhalinsk – Moscow. Washington – New York – Budapest – London – Tel Aviv – Paris – Moscow. Singapore – Jerusalem. Sochi. Wiesbaden – Luxembourg. Hong Kong – Tokyo – Osaka – Monaco – Dublin – Vienna – Moscow. Bologna – Venice – Barcelona – Faro – Lisbon – Moscow. Abu Dhabi, Star City.

And on that satisfying note folks, I shall sign off on the year. Thank you for your attention and patience! I wonder what next year’s travel-summary will look like. I think I’ll have to start taking it easier maybe – less non-stop marathon world-tours. Yeah, right!

Happy Boxing Day!

Cheers!

December 25, 2014

Year-end festive fete – 2014.

As per tradition, we recently had our New Year/Christmas blowout – the kind of party other, duller companies tend to call their ‘corporate do’. That hardly describes what we have though – and more and more so every year…

Last Friday some 1700 KLers and scores of guests from around the world all gathered in Moscow’s massive Olympic Stadium for our mega-bash. We ate, drank and were merry; we danced, bantered and awarded each other prizes; we took part in – or watched – the sublime ice spectacle and KL-stage show (in which around 110 employees took part); then danced some more, then some more again… all to wind up the year as is only right and proper – and usher in the next and even better 12 months.

new-year-xmas-party-2015-1

new-year-xmas-party-2015-2

Read on: Full 100 grams of pure Christmas creative partying decadence…

December 23, 2014

Weightlessness: awesomeness.

I recently discovered a most unpleasant feature of my favorite Sony RX-100: it doesn’t take pics in zero gravity! Instead, it curtly announces ‘Drop detected’ on the screen and switches itself off. But I didn’t drop it! The only thing that was dropped was the level of gravity – to zero! Sony, I know you’ve enough troubles as it is right now, but please – this issue needs addressing!!

Zero gravity experience

I later found out that it’s possible to turn off this ‘feature’, but in the heat of the moment, when about to enter a state of weightlessness, delving into complex multi-branch menus on your chosen piece of photographic kit is the last thing you want to be doing. But thankfully nothing was missed this time – just about everyone on this zero-gravity mission (I’ll get to the details shortly) had a camera and was happily snapping away throughout the duration…

This is my one pic of the day’s events – before my camera conked:

Zero gravity experienceSneak preview: we went all floating-in-the-air-like-spacemen-in-a-spaceship in this beast

So, weightlessness – complete weightlessness, zero gravitation… What is it?

Actually, it’s not quite as exotic and out-of-reach as you might at first think. Let me show you by way of a mini experiment…

Get up from your chair right now and jump up and down.

No, really, I’m serious!

Zero gravity experience

Zero gravity experience

Read on: Weeeeeeeeeh!…

December 16, 2014

Abu-Dhabi-Finali-Mondiali.

How time flies… It’s now nearly two weeks since I was in Abu Dhabi for a high-speed adrenalin injection, and only just now have I gotten round to putting fingers to keyboard. So apologies for the delay folks; sometimes I need a full reboot – a few days of catching up on sleep and spending quality time with my family. Everything else – for later. Now, here’s that later…

So, like I say, I was in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for the Finali Mondiali.

Abu Dhabi Ferrari Challenge

But why? Well, why, that is, apart from ‘it’s nice and sunny down in the Middle East’, like always?

Easy. Sometimes you need to meet face-to-face the folks you normally communicate with only by telephone or email. Mod-coms are all very good, but they’ll never by any match for personal interaction for catching up properly…

To take an analogy, let’s say you’re barbequing on the shore of a lake. Your pal’s also barbequing nearby – but on the shore of a neighboring lake. And you’re Skyping each other.

Question: Are you eating together or separately?

Answer, IMHO: You’re eating separately, and only imitating human interaction.

Homo sapiens – we were all designed to interact with one another. And the closer and more personal, the better. And that’s why I was in Abu Dhabi. Ok, that’s enough theory/work… Now: FUN!

There were tons of fun to be had in Abu Dhabi, so much so I’m struggling to work out which particular tons were the funniest. I think… yes – for me the best was the mega roller-coaster here (interestingly sometimes referred to as a Russian mountain – turns out roller-coasters first appeared in St. Petersburg – in the 18th century!!). What can I say? It’s mega!

Abu Dhabi Ferrari World1 second

Read on: May the luck be with us next time!…

December 9, 2014

Seashells and a hotel on the seashore.

After staying the night in a hotel recently in the town of Cascais just outside Lisbon, I just had to put fingers to laptop to tell you about it. I’ve seen quite a few hotels in my time, but this is one of the few I’ll never forget…

Please meet the Fortaleza do Guincho. It’s simple, it’s classy, it’s cozy, it’s modest. A boutique hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant (we ate in the local greasy spoon fish fork, which deserved a Michelin star too:). In short: lovely lodgings.

But this hotel gets a whole blogpost dedicated to it not for any of the above-mentioned niceties. Instead, it comes down to the hackneyed real estate buying threesome: location, location, location. For this heavenly hotel is located right on the coast of the Atlantic – almost in it, in fact. The ocean’s literally outside your window. The sound noise of the waves crashing against the shore… it’s almost hypnotic – and can lull you into a doze-cum-meditation before you can say ’40 winks’ or ‘om’. Incredible. I want to go back already!

This is how it looks from up above:

Fortaleza do GuinchoSource

And this is what it looks like down on the ground:

portugal-hotel-2Just like the palaces here… unusual, unique architecture :)

portugal-hotel-3The cliff theme continues

Read on: View to the left, to the right and from my room…

December 8, 2014

A palace, a castle and a cape near Lisbon. 

Last week we had another free afternoon in Portugal. Naturally, we made the most of it.

On our way to Lisbon airport we made a quick detour off the highway to take in another two interesting Portuguese places of interest.

They’re not quite as monumental as the cliffs we saw on the southern coast of the country, but all the same they’re still worth a look. The first place, real close to Lisbon, is the town of Sintra (and its Pena Park). The other is the western-most point of Europe – Cabo da Roca – approx. 20km from Pena.

Pena Park is actually the grounds of Pena National Palace, perched high up on the top of a hill here (500 meters above sea level).There are various different touristic tidbits to check out in and around the grounds, but the main two are the palace itself plus Castelo Mouros – Castle of the Moors – another hilltop-located ancient construction (and the cooler of the two).

portugal-sintra-cabo-de-roca-1Pena National Palace

Read on: Summer residence of the Portuguese royal family…

December 5, 2014

How much per minute? The Spanish parking pricing conundrum.

Still in Spain, after Barca, we headed over to the city of Seville. We needed to park up the motor for a few hours, so drove to the parking lot in the airport. And that’s when we saw it: Absurdity with a capital A. Or so it seemed at first…

On the wall of the parking lot hangs this here price list:

909254_1000Qué?

No folks, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. And no, that hasn’t been Photoshopped. Those figures, though very unreal, are actually for real.

What? How? Why? Anyone have a clue?

Read on: The reality of the matter turned out to be much more prosaic…

December 4, 2014

For Those about to Rocks: Earth, Wind and Ocean. 

We recently had a day spare after a partner conference in Portugal.

What were we to do?

Easy: get ourselves a rented car and race along the country’s south coast! We set out from the city of Faro.

portugal-1-2

portugal-1-1

It’s a coastline of very impressive imposing cliffs – forever battling the ferocious forces of the ocean.

Read on: startlingly stunning!…