Folks can think for themselves.

Besides a market for its goods or services, a business also needs resources. There are financial resources: money; human resources: employees; intellectual resources: business ideas, and the ability to bring them to life. For some businesses, sometimes even for whole industries, another resource is needed: trust.

Let’s say you decide to buy… a vacuum cleaner. Is trust required of the manufacturer? Not really. You simply buy what seems like the right vacuum cleaner for you, based on a few things like its technical characteristics, how it looks, its quality, and its price. Trust doesn’t really come into it.

However, in some industries, for example finance or medicine, trust plays a crucial role. If someone doesn’t trust a certain financial advisor or pharmaceutical brand, he/she is hardly going to become their client/buy their products – and perhaps never will. Until, that is, the financial advisor/pharma company somehow proves that they are actually worthy of trust.

Well, our business – cybersecurity – not only requires trust, it depends on it. Without it, there can be no cybersecurity. And some folks – for now, let’s just call them… detractors – they know this perfectly well and try to destroy people’s trust in cybersecurity in all manner of ways; and for all manner of reasons.

You’d think there might be something wrong with our products if there are folks trying to undermine trust in them. However, as to the quality of our products, I am perfectly untroubled – the results of independent tests show why. It’s something else that’s changed in recent years: geopolitical turbulence. And we’ve been caught right in the middle of it.

A propaganda machine rose up and directed its dark arts in our direction. A growing number of people have read or heard of unsubstantiated allegations against us, originating in part from media reports that cite (unverifiable) anonymous sources. Whether such stories are influenced by the political agenda or a commercial need to drive sales is unclear, but false accusations shouldn’t be acceptable (just as any other unfairness shouldn’t be.) So we challenge and disprove every claim made against us, one by one. And I choose this verb carefully there: disprove (quick reminder: they have never proved anything; but of course they haven’t: none exists as no wrongdoing was ever done in the first place.)

Anyway, after almost a year since the last wave of allegations, I decided to conduct a sort-of audit of my own. To try and see how the world views us now, and to get an idea as to whether people exposed to such stories have been influenced by them. And to what extent our presentation of the facts has allowed them to make up their own minds on the matter.

And guess what, we found that if people take into account only the facts… well – I have good news: the allegations don’t wash! Ok, I can hear you: ‘show us the evidence!’

First off: a year ago, the largest research company in the world, Gartner, launched a new research project – Gartner Peer Insights – to analyze customers rating of brands. Really simple, but enormously useful: the opinions of corporate customers are collected, with Gartner’s team vetting the process to make sure there’s no vendor bias, no hidden agendas, no trolling. Basically, you get transparency and authenticity straight from end-users that matter.

Last year, thanks to the feedback from corporate customers, we earned the project’s highest award! This year’s results aren’t all in yet, but you can see for yourself the number of customers that wanted to tell Gartner about their experience of us and give their overall ratings and leave positive reviews. Crucially, you can see it’s not a ‘review factory’ at work: they’re confirmed companies of different sizes, profiles, geography and caliber.

And talking of geography – turns out that in different regions of the world attitudes to trust can differ.

Take, for example, Germany. There, the question of trust in companies is taken very seriously. Therefore, the magazine WirtschaftsWoche regularly publishes its ongoing research into levels of trust in companies after polling more than 300,000 people. In the ‘software’ category (note – not antivirus or cybersecurity), we are in fourth place, and the overall level of trust in KL is high – higher than for most direct competitors, regardless of their country of origin.

Then we see what happens when governments use facts to decide whether to trust a company or not. Example: last week the Belgian Centre for Cyber Security researched the facts regarding KL and found they didn’t support the allegations against us. After which the prime minister of Belgium announced that there is no objective technical data – not even any independent research – that indicates our products could pose a threat. To that I would personally add that, theoretically, they could pose a threat, but no more than any other cybersecurity product from any other company from any other country. Because theoretically any product could have vulnerabilities. But taking into consideration our technology transparency efforts, I’d say that our products pose less of a threat than any other products.

Read on: we conducted our own research into the question of trust…

China trip-2018: warm-up.

Hi folks!

As you can no doubt tell by these pics, I was recently in China. In fact, a trip to China is becoming a bit of an autumn tradition already, timed perfectly to catch the lull after National Day Golden Week holidays (in honor of the founding of the People’s Republic), during which practically the whole country takes the full week off work. It’s a bit like the first week of every year in Russia: the whole country comes to a stop. Don’t even try getting anything done – work-wise (no ones’ working) or tourism-wise (the locals are doing the home-grown tourism thing so the lines you have to wait in are just silly).

Apparently, some 700,000,000 Chinese (!) were on the move during this this year’s Golden Week. Yes folks, you did read that right: a full eight zeroes there! So as I say, best to keep away during Golden Week. The week after though: knock yourself out! All the parks, cities… in fact any tourist attractions are practically empty – for a good two weeks.

Which is just as well, for China – being as massive as it is – has a lot of phenomenal natural beauty that needs checking out. I mean, the country is number two in the world on the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites (after Italy). Formidable rock formations, voluptuous valleys overgrown with gorgeous greenery, lovely brightly-colored lakes, and more – ensuring China has a full 10 entries on my list of the Top-100 Most Beautiful Places in the World (+ six bonus tracks:). And this list of mine I occasionally edit as and when new places need adding. And they need adding in China more than in most other countries. See for yourself:

Read on: a bit about the route …

Top-100: Australia.

As strange as it may seem, I’ve explored more of Australia than any other continent. I’ve been to lots of its many uniquely beautiful places, and plan on getting to the ones I’ve missed so far very soon. Outstanding ocean coastline and endless desert, multicolored rock formations, waterfalls, white beaches – Australia has them all. And if you add to that powerful mix kangaroos, koalas and crocs, what you get is one fascinating country!

90. Kimberley.

Sure, Kimberley takes forever to get to, but its limitless landscapes and venerable views are more than worth the trouble getting here. A week is too short a time for a full and proper ‘see everything’ visit (as I found out during my week long trip). And you really do need to get your route and logistics planned well in advance. Try to get here during a full moon or new moon – when the tides are the highest and the horizontal waterfalls gush the hardest! I’ve been just the once; my impressions are here. I long to get back soon. I’ve even drawn up a list of the must-sees I, erm, must see!

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Read on…

Gulf to Geneva – wonderful weather.

During a recent flight I was overcome by some aviational-contemplative-meditative mega-good vibes. They were brought on by the super weather outside my window for almost the whole flight.

Said wonderful weather caused me to peer out of my window for most of the journey. Curiously, during the short time we were flying over the Persian Gulf, I saw not one plane flying nearby (a rarity), but two! I realize the airspace around these parts is fairly chokka with planes, but I wasn’t expecting… this:

Read on…

Digital demons – in art and in everyday life.

As regular readers of this here blog of mine will already know, I’m rather into modern art. But when art somehow merges with the anything IT-related, I’m the world’s biggest fan. Well, such a merging is taking place right now in Moscow in its Museum of Modern Art with the exhibition Daemons in the Machine, so supporting it was a no brainer. Artists, consulted by scientists, aimed their creativity at the modern-day topics of artificial intelligence (which, IMHO, is hardly any intelligence at all – just smart algorithms), blockchain, neural networks and robotics. The result is a curious mix of futurology, ethics and – of course – art.

I haven’t been myself as I’m only just back from my latest trip, but I hope to find time for a visit before my next one.

And now, we move from high-art digital demons to everyday, run-of-the-mill – but very worrying – digital demons…

Read on…

Four oceans and seven seas in 2018.

My friends and I have a bit of a tradition that goes back years.

Each time we find ourselves at the seaside – or ocean side – we make sure we get in that sea/ocean for a spot of bathing/paddling/swimming. But it’s not just seas and oceans; also a river or a lake… in fact, any body of water must be entered and our bodies fully submerged in.

A stream? In we go! Waterfalls – under we go! A hole in the ice? In we go! Natural – preferably hot – springs? In! (The only bodies of water we refrain from entering are the bubbling-volcanic-sulfuric ones which are extremely harmful to human health.) The best natural bathing places are even entered into a hit-parade (part one; part two). And because the bodies of water can be literally anywhere around the world, there’s no real start or end of the bathing season for us globetrotting H₂O lovers.

For example, we once found ourselves in the New Zealand seaside town of Raglan on New Year’s Eve. After seeing in the New Year (based on local time) we went for a night-dip in the local river, which flows into the Tasman Sea. But New Year was still several hours off back in Moscow. So whether that night-swim signaled the start or the end of the bathing season for us is far from clear.

Fast-forward to this year, however, and things seem a lot clearer cut: looking over my travel itinerary up until the end of the year, it looks like I’ve already ended the bathing season for 2018. ‘Eh? But it’s only October!’ Indeed, but all my appointments are in places where there’s no sea or ocean lakes, or whatever. Oh well. Still, I ended the season with a real bang splash…

At the weekend I was in Dubai, having joined the family there (they’d been there a week already (school holidays and all)). The air temperature hovered around 30°C in the shade, and the sea temperature was about the same too (though it felt cooler)!

Dubai is an undeniably unique place, having risen up out of the desert literally from nothing. It’s what you get when you have plentiful resources and wise management. I’ve written and length about the place before, so I won’t duplicate things here. But though I’ve already hundreds of photos of Dubai and I really don’t need any more, I find I still can’t resist taking a few extra each visit:

Read on…

IT antimonopolism: analysis, amazement, (+) frame of mind.

Some readers of the technical part of my blog, wearied by this year’s summer heat, may have missed a notable landmark event that occurred in July. It was this: the European Commission (EC) found Google guilty of abusing its dominant position in relation to an aspect of the mobile OS market, and fined the company a whopping 4.34 billion euro (which is around 40% if the company’s net profit for last year!).

Why? Because, according to the EC, “Since 2011, Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers [including forcing Android device manufacturers to pre-install Google’s search and browser apps] and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search.”

It all seems perfectly logical, apparent, and not unprecedented (the EC’s fined Google heavily in the past). Also perfectly logical – and expected – is that Google has appealed the decision on the fine. Inevitably the case will last many years, leading to a spurious final result, which may never become known due to an out-of-court settlement. And the reason (for the lengthy court case) won’t be so much a matter of how big the fine is, but how difficult it will be to prove abuse of dominance.

Ok, let’s have a closer look at what’s going on here…

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Read on…

Top-100: NZ, the rest of Oceania, and both Poles.

For most of the population of the world New Zealand (NZ) is simply to far way to be thought of as a reasonably realistic travel destination. There a zillion miles from practically anywhere! But that just makes them all the more interesting and exclusive.

Up until recently, out of all of the Oceanian countries/islands, I’d only checked out NZ (and not just checked it out: we had an almost three-week intensive tour of the two islands), and Hawaii, which both then made it onto my Top-100 List of Must-See Countries of the World. Those two are of course still on the list (how could it be any other way?) – and here you’ll be getting a mini-refresher on both – but I also got to see this year a good few other Oceanian islands. Handily, they can all be grouped under one heading (~country), but anyway – more on those in a bit…

So, now, the Oceania section of my Top-100 looks like this:

95. New Zealand.

An impossibly gorgeous pair of islands – and I don’t just mean their natural uniquenesses, but the whole of its countryside. NZ goes one-up on Western Europe, for besides being similarly neatly planned, trimmed and painted, it also seems to be Photoshopped, so bright and contrasting are all the natural colors everywhere. Even the sheep seem to have been given a trim and blow-dry before leaving the house for the day :).

NZ is two considerably sized, considerably contrasting, islands, each of which really needs treating separately in a list such as this. Still, since it’s long been the custom to refer to either island’s beauty as ‘that’s New Zealand’, I’ll follow suit and group the two together. LOTS of detail – here.

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Stairway to heaven.

Hi folks!

If you recall, in August I returned from Kamchatka with a broken leg. The fracture was a real pain in the… leg, since I was in plaster for six weeks. But finally, they removed said plaster; hurray!

I’d been advised by the doctor so take it easy with my mended leg – to build up the muscle and strengthen the bone steadily by getting plenty of easy exercise done – especially walking. Well, if it’s walking the doctor ordered, walking it’ll be. So off I (flew and) walked…

To warm up I headed first to Germany – for some steady-paced walking around a museum. The next day I upped the tempo at Oktoberfest. After that came strolling around Rome and another exhibition, followed by more walking (and lots of standing and crouching and leaning over!) on Santorini, Greece.

Despite my efforts, the leg still wasn’t fully recovered: I found I still needed my crutches. So what was I to do? Then I remembered what the doc said: in addition to just plain walking I should add walking up and down stairs. So it was time to stop taking the elevator, and generally to seek out stairs for my rehabilitation exercises. But much better would be steps not up a hotel or office building but up, say, a mountainside surrounded by natural beauty; there’d also be the bonuses of fresh air, pleasant aromas, a contemplative atmosphere and birds merrily singing – if I chose my mountainside carefully. So it was time to choose a mountainside carefully…

Turned out it was mountainsides – plural, which were opted for. I’ll be telling you where they were and details of our walks up and down them in upcoming posts. For now though I just want to give you some pics of what turned out to be an ‘exotic stairway experience’!

Now, I love paths. But I think I prefer steps, as then there are normally mountains involved, which I love too. But here, well, it’s a veritable ‘stairway to heaven’. Just look at these pics! Oh my gradient!

So it was up and down, up and down, up and across, and more up and down for us for days – perfect rehabilitation exercise. And the views – the pics speak for themselves.

Many of the stairways were deceptive – you’d think you were reaching the top, when they turn a corner and there above you opens up another zillion steps! Most of the time the steps were of the appropriate heights and depths, but sometimes they were really low and short, with your foot not being able to fit fully thereupon. On these we sometimes had to get on all fours so as to avoid losing our footing.

In all we were here for 10 days, and some of our smartphones reckoned we’d trekked more than 100 kilometers, and ascended and descended around 5000 meters (along the vertical) while doing so (that’s 300-600 meters up and down per day!).

So we had ourselves some excellent exotic and adventurous active tourism, as you’ll guess from the pics. Oh, and my leg? It’s almost fully recuperated already – doesn’t ache, and I’m walking now practically limp-less. And the crutches? Launched! Hurray!

All righty. Pics time. The steps and stairs:

Read on…

What’s in the box? A Cycladic surprise!

Γεια folks!

Once upon a time, there was an ancient civilization that lived on and around the Mediterranean island that is today called Santorini, part of Greece. But then that civilization just disappeared, and no one really knows for sure just where to. And that was before a catastrophic volcanic eruption wiped out all that remained of the civilization. I’ve already written on these here blog pages about this fascinating place (a few times a couple years back, and a bit earlier). Ancient legends, astonishing archeological discoveries, and unbelievable hypotheses and assumptions – that’s what this place is about.

More than 3600 years ago the Minoans lived here in a city made up of houses of three or four stories, with fully working plumbing systems. But ‘Minoans’ is the name given to them thousands of years after their disappearance; who they really were, what they called themselves and their island, what language they spoke and wrote, and so on – all that is still a mystery.

All that’s left of the ‘Minoan’ civilization is the ruins of their ancient city: houses and streets, most of which are still all under a thick layers of volcanic ash.

Well I think the above-mentioned is more than enough reason to carry out archeological digs here. And not just dig, but also restore and preserve all that’s already been excavated. And after nearly a year-and-a-half (not including the winter break) of work, something reeeaaal interesting’s turned up! Namely: earthenware boxes containing… hmmm – probably something very interesting… Here are these boxes:

So, what was inside them?

‘Nothing?’ Nope.

Turns out… – another earthenware box! But inside that… – no, I’ll save that for a bit later in this post…

Read on…