Monthly Archives: December 2017

The best city in the world.

Singapore is a fantastic city – and that goes for its economy, architecture and transportation system. It’s hard to believe, but there’s almost no such thing as traffic jams here! There are loads of tunnels though. You can even drive across half the island underground.

Singapore is especially good in December. In winter here, it’s just hot – not the usual for this part of the world. You still get wet here in December, but not soaking wet like in other seasons. Singapore is located on the equator, in the humid tropics. In all seasons other than winter, you end up completely soaked – every part of your body and everything you’re wearing (if in a suit on your way to a formal business meeting, it’s best to make multiple stops in climate-controlled areas or, even better, use the underground metro walkways). After a while your consciousness takes a hit because of all the humidity you’ve inhaled… and that’s the end of it.

Despite all that, Singapore is the most delightful city in the world, according to my measurements and calculations. Singapore is no. 1. That’s right.

The prices are also fantastic; cars are particularly expensive because of the high import duties. The laws are pretty draconian too, which gave rise to the joke “Singapore is a fine city”. Also, the connoisseurs of modern democracy occasionally badmouth Singapore for not always being ‘democratic’. But it works. I’ve seen some sociological research that found that the residents of Singapore are the happiest in the world. And there’s a queue of those who’d like to get permanent residency, but the quotas are very strict.

On top of all that, Singapore is fabulously beautiful. No matter where or what time of day it is, this place is just beautiful – you can be hypnotized by it and contemplate it forever.


Read on…

The full Ha Long.

I’ve been on a pretty tight business schedule and haven’t had much free time. Now, I’ve got a backlog of stories that I have to publish about the places I’ve visited and the sights I’ve seen – and the backlog keeps growing, which I don’t like. So, I’ll try and catch up whenever I have a spare moment and functioning Wi-Fi, which may be a bit of problem in the foreseeable future.

So, I’m in Vietnam, at Ha Long Bay, which is here. This is, without a doubt, one of the wonders of the world, definitely worth a visit – just like all the other entries in my Top-100 Must-See Places in the World. I was last here in May 2010, and now I’ve just revisited. And I don’t regret it for a second.


Read on: what have been changed during the last seven years…

Business centurion

My dear online audience! For the umpteenth time, I apologize for the long delay in my travel reporting. My schedule’s been jam-packed recently. But now that all the New Year/Christmas parties are winding down and my travel schedule has presented a couple of free hours, I can jot down a line or two for you. And first of all, I have an announcement to make. A few days ago I embarked on my 100th flight of the year. Here it is:

But we were heading in a different direction. You’ve probably figured it out by now – I’m sending you all greetings from ->

Read on…

7 200 000.

Hi folks!

Along with the snow and ice (at least in my home city), December brings with it an unbearable desire to take stock of the past 12 months, to be amazed at what’s been achieved, and to make plans for the future. Then, after a brief pause for festive fun and frolics, it’s time to get back at it (and them!) once again.

Now, to me, one of the most impressive KL projects of the year – among a whole host of them – was the global launch of our free antivirus. In just several months this product has demonstrated curiously extraordinary success, and it’s that success I want to tell you about here today.

Kaspersky FREE was pilot-launched almost two years ago after an intense public discussion about its functionality. For a year and a half we kept a close eye on how the product worked, also on the user feedback thereon, the effectiveness of the protection, competition with our paid products, and so on… and it all confirmed – we were doing things just right! Then, six months ago, we had the global rollout of our freebie!

Half a year: is that a short or a long time? Well, on an uninhabited island it’s a long time, I guess. But for a popular antivirus it’s no time at all. Still, what can you get done in such a short time? Turns out quite a bit, if you put your mind to it…

First off: back to the title of this post: 7.2 million.

7.2 million is the total number of installations of FREE up until December 1, 2017. Around four million of those are active users, which is a real good result for such a new product. In just November FREE was downloaded nearly 700,000 times: around 23,000 times a day. But what’s even more curiously surprising is the loyalty of the users of FREE: some 2.5 times higher than the trial versions of our paid products: 76% of users who install FREE stay with us for several months of more. Woah. That’s a nice fat figure for Christmas ).

Now a little about the effectiveness of FREE

Although the product is loaded with just the basic essentials of protection (for £39.99 you can get the full suite of protective whistles and bells, including VPN, Password Manager, Parental Control, mobile device protection, etc.), it works on the same anti-malware engine as our other consumer products. In 2017 FREE protected its users from almost 250 million cyberattacks, 65 million detections of which occurred thanks to our cloud-based KSN. In just a year the product detected 17.5 million unique malicious programs and ~50 million malicious websites/pages. No wonder then that FREE is regularly and deservedly in among the top ratings in tests and reviews all around the world with enviable regularity.

There are three more things I think will be interesting to you, dear reader.

Read on…

www.luzhniki-2017.

Just last week I went all volcanic with a blogpost, even though I haven’t seen a volcano in the flesh for quite a while. So, why? Well, it was an appetizer, for there’s a spot of volcanism on the horizon. But more on that later. All in good time…

Meanwhile in Moscow…

…And indeed practically all over the planet, preparations are being made for New Year and, for many, Christmas celebrations.

Advent calendar? Check.

Christmas tree up and decorated? Check.

Flashing lights up on a window or two? Check.

Presents bought. Not yet, come on; on the to-do list.

Year-end work party? Check! Already! A little earlier than usual (for example, in 2016, 2015, 2014 and so on:).

(Btw, all these pics: courtesy of Roman Rudakov)

This year has been… different, for one thing. Well our year-end prom was a bit lot different too. Different format, and not one, not two, but a full three headliner bands on!

Usually the format goes like this: (i) our awards ceremony (best crew, best project, etc., etc.); (ii) a big variety show put on by KLers; and (iii) a quick headliner at the end plus a disco. And all sat down at tables (for some of the time:).

This year… not that there was anything wrong with the usual format, but, well, it was our jubilee (20 years!) too, so we just had to do something very different and special this year…

Read on…

An Open Letter from Kaspersky Lab.

This week, Kaspersky Lab filed an appeal with a U.S. federal court challenging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (‘DHS’) Binding Operational Directive 17-01, which requires federal agencies and departments to remove the company’s products from federal information systems. The company did not take this action lightly, but maintains that DHS failed to provide Kaspersky Lab with adequate due process and relied primarily on subjective, non-technical public sources like uncorroborated and often anonymously sourced media reports and rumors in issuing and finalizing the Directive. DHS has harmed Kaspersky Lab’s reputation and its commercial operations without any evidence of wrongdoing by the company. Therefore, it is in Kaspersky Lab’s interest to defend itself in this matter.

About Kaspersky Lab

As a global cybersecurity company founded over 20 years ago, Kaspersky Lab has proudly called the United States home to its North American headquarters in Woburn, Massachusetts, for over a decade. With nearly 300 employees in Massachusetts and throughout the country, Kaspersky Lab’s corporate mission is to protect its customers from cyberthreats, regardless of their origin or purpose. The company regularly submits its products and solutions for independent testing and assessment, consistently receiving more first place finishes and top-3 awards than any other cybersecurity vendor. Furthermore, the company collaborates with law enforcement, other IT security companies, and government organizations globally to combat cybercrime, providing technical assistance and forensic malware analysis, as well as world-renowned security research into cyber-espionage and targeted attack campaigns.

Kaspersky Lab has a clear policy concerning the detection of malware: it detects and remediates any malware attack. There is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ malware for the company. Its research team has been actively involved in the discovery and disclosure of several malware attacks with links to nation-state and organized cybercrime entities. Over the past decade, Kaspersky Lab has published in-depth research into some of the biggest cyber-espionage and financially motivated cybercrime operations known to date. It does not matter which language a threat ‘speaks’: Russian, Chinese, Spanish, German, or English. The following list of threats, as reported by Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team (‘GReAT’), shows the different languages used in each case:

Kaspersky Lab’s Good Faith Efforts to Engage DHS

Kaspersky Lab fully supports DHS’s mission and mandate to secure federal information and federal information systems, which align with its own corporate mission of protecting customers from cyber threats regardless of their origin or purpose. Given its longstanding commitment to transparency, the trustworthy development of its technologies and services, and cooperation with governments and the IT security industry worldwide, Kaspersky Lab reached out to DHS in mid-July as part of a good faith effort to address any concerns regarding the company, its operations, or its products. DHS confirmed receipt of Kaspersky Lab’s letter in mid-August, appreciating the company’s offer to provide said information and expressing interest in future communications with the company regarding this matter. Kaspersky Lab believed in good faith that DHS would take the company up on its offer to engage on these issues and hear from the company before taking any adverse action. However, there was no subsequent communication from DHS to Kaspersky Lab until the notification regarding the issuance of Binding Operational Directive 17-01 on September 13, 2017. The July and August communications are referenced below.

July 18, 2017, Kaspersky Lab Letter to DHS

“Given Kaspersky Lab’s longstanding commitment to transparency, the trustworthy development of its technologies and solutions, and cooperation with governments worldwide and the IT security industry to combat cyber threats, we write to offer any information or assistance we can provide with regard to any Department investigation regarding the company, its operations, or its products.

…The integrity and assurance of our products and technologies remain our utmost priority, and we maintain that a deeper, collaborative examination of our company and its products will assuage any concerns.

Kaspersky Lab looks forward to working with the Department and its staff and welcomes further dialogue. Please contact *************** via email or phone to discuss how we might communicate more directly with you or your staff and explore ways we might work together to make cyberspace safer.”

August 14, 2017, DHS Letter to Kaspersky Lab

Jeanette Manfra, on behalf of the (then-)Acting Secretary responded:

“Thank you for your letter of July 18, 2017 addressed to then-Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly. The Acting Secretary has asked me to respond on her behalf.

We appreciate your offer to provide information to the Department about your company and its operations and products as well as to communicate with the Department about making cyberspace safer. We look forward to communicating with you further on this matter and receiving such information from you, and we appreciate your patience as we work through timing and logistical issues.

We will be in touch again shortly. Thank you again for your letter.”

Addressing DHS’s Binding Operating Directive 17-01

One of the foundational principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, which I deeply respect, is due process: the opportunity to contest any evidence and defend oneself before the government takes adverse action. Unfortunately, in the case of Binding Operational Directive 17-01, DHS did not provide Kaspersky Lab with a meaningful opportunity to be heard before the Directive’s issuance, and therefore, Kaspersky Lab’s due process rights were infringed.

In the September 19, 2017 Federal Register notice announcing the issuance of Binding Operational Directive 17-01, DHS stated that Kaspersky Lab could initiate a review of the Directive by submitting written information, which the company did on November 10, 2017. However, this ‘administrative process’ did not afford Kaspersky Lab due process under U.S. law because the company did not have the opportunity to see and contest the information relied upon by DHS before the issuance of the Directive. As I have said before, ‘genuine due process provides you with the opportunity to defend yourself and see the evidence against you before action is taken; it doesn’t ask you to respond once action is already underway.’

Furthermore, DHS primarily relies upon uncorroborated media reports to support its assertion that Kaspersky Lab products present information security risks to government networks, not evidence of any wrongdoing by the company. DHS also cites technical arguments that apply to antivirus solutions generally, including broad levels of access and privileges to the systems on which solutions operate, the use of cloud-based technologies to process malware samples and deploy detection signatures, and data collection and processing practices. These capabilities are not unique to Kaspersky Lab’s products, and if they are of concern, DHS could have taken action to address these issues holistically across the IT security industry instead of unfairly targeting a single company without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Despite the relatively small percentage of the company’s U.S. revenue attributable to active software licenses held by federal government entities, DHS’s actions have caused a disproportionate and unwarranted adverse impact on Kaspersky Lab’s consumer, commercial, and state, local, and education (‘SLED’) business interests in the United States and globally. Through Binding Operational Directive 17-01, DHS has harmed Kaspersky Lab’s reputation, negatively affected the livelihoods of its U.S.-based employees and U.S.-based business partners, and undermined the company’s contributions to the broader cybersecurity community. Its presence in Russia and the CIS region, its technical knowhow, and its linguistic expertise uniquely position the company to advance the fight against malware and protect its customers from cyber threats. These assets have enabled Kaspersky Lab to share cyber threat information and vulnerability research with various U.S. government entities, including constituent agencies of DHS, involved in protecting U.S. cyberspace. Dissuading consumers and businesses in the United States and abroad from using Kaspersky Lab products solely because of its geographic origins and without any credible evidence does not constitute a risk-based approach to cybersecurity and does little to address information security concerns related to government networks.

Conclusion

In undertaking this action, Kaspersky Lab hopes to protect its rights under the U.S. Constitution and U.S. federal law, receive adequate due process, and repair the reputational and commercial damage caused by Binding Operational Directive 17-01. The company continues to welcome constructive and collaborative engagement with the U.S. government to address any concerns about its operations or its products, as it stated in its letter to DHS five months ago. Kaspersky Lab’s Global Transparency Initiative could serve as a mechanism for such dialogue. Regardless of this action, Kaspersky Lab remains committed to continuing its mission and business of protecting customers in the United States and around the world from cyber threats by providing market-leading antivirus software, threat intelligence and analytics.

Digital 2018 – pt. 2

Hi folks!

Quite a bit of motivation is needed to solve interesting brainteasers. Thankfully I’ve never had any trouble mustering motivation. But more about that in a bit…

First up, as per the requests of many, two brainteasers that don’t require a calculator or computer – it’s quicker using a trusty old pencil and pad. All righty…

Brainteaser No. 1

There exists a really beautiful 10-digit number. The first (left-most) digit in it is the overall quantity of 0s in this number. The second digit – the quantity of 1s. The third – 2s. And so on. The last digit is the quantity of 9s. What is that digit?

It’s not as hard as it may at first seem. To solve it you need merely (i) a head, (ii) a brain inside it, and (iii) the ability to use it. So good luck!

The second riddle is a little more difficult. Even if you have a head, a brain and ability, not everyone will get it. This one’s solving is probably reserved for arithmetic geniuses – the sort that are able to multiply large numbers in their heads. Let’s see…

Brainteaserdestroyer No. 2

Does there exist a natural (whole, nonzero, positive) number that gives upon multiplication by 2018 a result that consists of a number made up of 10 1s and/or 0s? (everyone’s a programmer here: it’s all about the 0s and 1s:). In other words, is it possible to multiply 2018 by something whole and positive so that the result of the multiplication only has 0s and 1s in it – and is 10 digits long? If yes – let’s see it! If there are many – which is the smallest, and by how much? If there are none, explain the reason why.

Ok all you smart alecks, and Alexandras, thinking caps on! For the best/funniest answers – prizes!

And now a bit on how last week’s riddle was solved:

Digital 2018 – pt. 1

How to get 2018 out of the sequence 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and its truncations: 9-…-1, 8-…-1 and so on?

Here’s how:

Read on…

Digital 2018 – pt. 1.

Boys and girls!

December’s here again already. Over the next few weeks there’ll be the usual Christmassy-New-Year good vibes, then there’ll be the presents, fireworks, champagne, mistletoe, more champagne, and then the clock will strike midnight and we’ll have a +1 to the eternal yearly calendar. Then, for perhaps the first few weeks of January we’ll all still be saying and writing the date as day/Jan/the year 2017; oops, 2018! We all do it! I think ).

Twenty-eighteen. It has a ring to it; yes – a nice, round number. And each numeral that makes up the date is an even number… What? You’re not sure about 1? Come on! 1 is 2 to the power of zero. Kinda :). But wait! There’s more even-ness in this number: each digit of 2018 is a power of two. But what don’t you like about zero? Well, think of an artificial number, raising it to the power of which two gives zero – what, difficult? Now think of an imaginary ‘i’, the square of which gives -1. Come on: such a sexy number as 2018 is just crying out for working a sweat up about :).

Ok, ok; agreed. We won’t spoil arithmetic with all kinds of unnecessary chimeras, to the power of which each decent two turns into an empty zero. But then, as per Chinese tradition, eight means wealth! So get ready – 2018 should be blessed with prosperity; there’s no chance of avoiding it!

Sooo. It’s time to stretch and warm up for what is bound to be an infinitely interesting – and perfectly prosperous – year. So let’s get stuck into some 2018-related arithmetic. And what comes to mind first? Yes: evenness.

2018 = 2*1009

1009 is a prime number. A bit like 2017. Last year I promised that 2017 would be a simple, straightforward year. And look how in the end it turned out! Now we need to get ready for an extra-simple/straightforward year, aka – a minus plus a minus gives a plus.

What else? The sum of all the numerals in 2018 is 11: a most photogenic number from any angle, and one that’s dear to me for technical reasons: the product of all nonzero numerals = 16, which can’t not raise the spirits of any programmer on the planet.

Ok, enough. Warm-up over. Let’s move onto our already traditional New Year arithmetic exercise. Here we go…

Given figures: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Using only ‘+’, ‘-‘, ‘*’ and ‘/’, plus ‘(…)’, all in any quantity, and also using exclusively these figures only once and only in that order… – how do you get 2018?

For example:

((10 + 9 – 8) * 7) + (6 + 5) * (4 – 3 + 2) + 1 = 111

Here we get 111. But we need to get 2018!

Marks, get set, go! Who’ll do it first to become the champ?

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2018

Once you solve it, you go to level two: Get 2018 from the same figures minus the 10.

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2018

Got it? > Level 3…:

8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2018

I managed these without a calculator – and without peeking at last year’s brainteaser – in around 20 minutes in Shanghai waiting for my flight to Moscow. My attempt at the next one was interrupted of course by the inevitable ‘turn off your devices’ nonsense on the plane, but once the ‘seatbelts fastened’ light went off, I carried on where I’d left off:

7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2018

This one is impossible without a factorial. I think we could allow here powers and roots too.

6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2018

Here I needed a multifactorial.

All righty. From ten figures to six: done. We’re half way there. Next up will be the second part of the brainteaser: from five and down. But we’ll save that for next time. For now, I’ve a party to get to!…

Cheers!

 

Non-stop country-swap; wooing in Wuzhen.

Hi folks!

Herewith, more on my time-warping theme, and on assorted tourisms – or their absence.

Sometimes I forget just how much city-hopping on planes I do in a month. It’s only when I look back over the month – usually by going through the photos I’ve taken during it – that I realize the actual numbers of cities visited are in double figures…

So, November 2017 for me went like this:

Like? I didn’t really. That was a tough November. I changed country (admittedly, twice three times – Germany, the UK and Russia) 11 times. I think that might be a record for a month – unless December beats it!…

Next up this month: Wuzhen, China.

Read on: City hop till drop; Wuzhen fusion…

Remember, remember, a hectic November.

Sometimes it seems such a shame there are just 24 hours in a day here on planet earth – normally. But it is possible to have less (why would anyone want that?), or – hurray! – to have more, if you’re careful with your choice of globetrotting-by-plane or certain-national-border-hopping-on-the-ground, that is…

But there are also occasions when you can lose a whole day, as in – a certain day you never see at all, it just passes you by or just never exists for you, and not because of a sleep-athon or coma or some such… I wonder – does that make you a day older? Younger? Hmmm.

So, how can you have a day just never occur for you? Well, here’s an example:

You board a plane, let’s say on August 28 and 14:30 in Santiago de Chile, and 14 hours later, with no night falling during that time, you land in Sydney de Australia. The local time at the destination: 17:30. But the day? August 30! WHAT? Where’d the full 24 hours of August 29 go? It disappeared down a black hole of time, aka the International Date Line. But if the IDL is imaginary… so, that means the day disappeared because of something only imagined and not real? Ok, I’ll stop there before your brain fries more than mine…

To help soothe your frazzled brains, herewith, a few entirely unrelated pics for your viewing pleasure, just when you need them most:

On the other hand, I’ve often had days that never seem to end.

For example, I’ve been woken up at around 2am by my alarm clock (hate that) in Thailand after a partner conference so as to get to the airport in time for my flight departing at 6am – to Tokyo (a timing/route mercifully since closed). Next up – a connection to San Francisco, California. All that in ONE calendar day (kinda), which ends up lasting something like 35-40 hours. Of course, one’s mental state upon arrival at the final destination is a cross between that of a vegetable and a zombie: red eyes, one side of the face lower than the other, perma-frown, very grumpy, etc., etc.: not a pretty sight. But what can you do? Duty calls.

So that’s how regular long-haulers lose or gain hours to their lives up in the air. Meanwhile, down on the ground you get a similar thing, only on a much smaller scale. You can’t go anywhere near as fast as a plane, so the most you can add or take off a day is an hour or two, possibly three at a stretch; more – only if there are two hours’ difference on a border and daylight saving time affects things.

So where can you get spookily-vanishing or magically-appearing hours of a day on the ground?

Read on: MMMM: Must-see Magnificent Maritime Museum!…