Monthly Archives: May 2020

The world’s cyber-pulse during the pandemic.

Among the most common questions I get asked during these tough times is how the cyber-epidemiological situation has changed. How has cybersecurity been affected in general by the mass move over to remote working (or not working, for the unlucky ones, but also sat at home all the time). And, more specifically, what new cunning tricks have the cyber-swine been coming up with, and what should folks do to stay protected from them?

Accordingly, let me summarize it all in this here blogpost…

As always, criminals – including cybercriminals – closely monitor and then adapt to changing conditions so as to maximize their criminal income. So when most of the world suddenly switches to practically a full-on stay-at-home regime (home working, home entertainment, home shopping, home social interaction, home everything, etc.!), the cybercriminal switches his/her tactics in response.

Now, for cybercriminals, the main thing they’ve been taking notice of is that most everyone while in lockdown has greatly increased the time they spend on the internet. This means a larger general ‘attack surface’ for their criminal deeds.

In particular, many of the folks now working from home, alas, aren’t provided with quality, reliable cyber-protection by their employers. This means there are now more opportunities for cybercriminals hacking into the corporate networks the employees are hooked up to, leading to potentially very rich criminal pickings for the bad guys.

So, of course, the bad guys are going after these rich pickings. We see this evidenced by the sharp increase in brute-force attacks on database servers and RDP (technology that allows, say, an employee, to get full access to their work computer – its files, desktop, everything – remotely, e.g., from home) ->

Read on…

Six simple brainteasers.

Brainteasers, riddles, conundrums – they come in all sorts of types: from easy to ~impossible, those requiring logic, math, geometry, and/or plenty of other skills and competencies. But those tricky types – requiring higher mathematics, complex space, and formulas several pages long – you won’t find any of those in this blogpost. Here, they range from real simple to average-hard, since the last one – the Sudoku – was rather tough. So, without further ado, here are the six…

Poser No. 1

You have two pieces of string of differing lengths. If burned from one end, they both burn for exactly one hour. The speed of the burning varies all the time: for example, half may burn in almost the full hour, then the other half burns up in minutes; or the other way round. You have at your disposal only the two lengths of string and one cigarette lighter, nothing else. What you need to do is determine when 45 minutes is up.

Poser No. 2

You have some graph paper with 10 by 10 squares on it. You cut out the square in the top left and top right corners; that is – one square from two opposing corners. Now the question: how do you cover the whole of the surface with 2×1 dominoes? That is, how do you place (100-2)/2 = 49 dominoes on the graph paper (with just one level of dominoes) so that everything is covered?

Poser No. 3

One night I dreamed of a number – a very unusual number. It was a 10-digit number. The first digit is equivalent to the number of zeros in the number. The second digit = the quantity of ones in the number, the third – the quantity of twos, … , and the last = the quantity of nines. Like I say, a very unusual number. The problem is – I forgot the number once I’d woken up! Question: what is the number?

Poser No. 4

This one’s to test the quickness of your wits. There’s symmetry here – almost:

30 – 33 = 3

One numeral needs to be moved to make the symmetry perfect. Which. And the ‘-‘ and ‘=’ don’t count. 

Poser No. 5

You have a cylinder, around which some thin wire is carefully wound. The wire was sufficient for four windings round the cylinder – from one end to the other – as in the pic. The length of the cylinder is 12 centimeters, the circumference of the cylinder is 4 centimeters. What is the length of the wire?

Poser No. 6. 

You have a huge cake for you and 100 of your colleagues (before/after lockdown). The colleagues line up for a slice. The first colleague takes a mere 1% slice, the second – a 2% slice: 2% of the remaining cake. The third – 3% of remaining cake, and so on, until, the last colleague – the 100th – takes all that’s left. Question: who cut themselves the largest slice?


All these brainteasers are doable in your head. You can of course use a pen and pad, but they won’t really help.

All righty – good luck!

And the most precise, witty, unexpected and other ‘most, mostest’ answers will get a prize: some serious antivirus protection – a boxless (contactless) version ).

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Tasmania – the video collection.

NB: with this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty, and reassurance that we’ll all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Yes, I know: I wrote how yesterday’s post was the last on Tasmania. But I’d forgotten about all the video material my travel companion, OA, had taken along the way! Plenty of it too – two hours worth, all shot on his smartphone. So, herewith, an opportunity to get the popcorn in, dim the lights, and go over the whole trip once more enjoy a video version of the very ‘greatest hits’ of our Tasmanian road/walk/chopper tour!…

Oh those Tasmanian hairpin bends!

Read on…

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Tasmania in a chopper.

NB: with this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty, and reassurance that we’ll all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Tasmania – done, at least in terms or a road trip therearound, plus much trekking along its peninsulas. The only thing still not done – chopper ride!…

First up – Tasmanian forest. You can see here how a swathe had been cut down, then replanted. I bet this is something to do with the very active logging that goes on on the island – done wisely: cut down, then plant some more in their place.

Read on…

Sudoku… for bored, locked-down boffins.

What? Bored? Surely not! Surely you’re reading those novels you kept putting off, that autobiography; fixing that faucet, finally getting round to that long-overdue spring clean, no?!

Ok, let’s say you’ve done all such things (or not). And now it’s back to ‘bored’. Well here’s something a bit different to end that boredom – at least for… a few days: a particularly tricky spot of Sudoku!

Now, before the knee-jerk groaning and eye-rolling, just let me explain. This isn’t your usual easy Sudoku you get in those Sudoku magazines. Oh no. This one was sent to me with the comment: ‘The most difficult Sudoku there is!’. Fine by me – the harder the better!

Thing is, I’d never done a Sudoku before. Talk about ‘in at the deep end’! Still, I had plenty of time to focus on it, and only it – on my long-haul flight from Australia in March after the Tasmanian tour. And I seemed to pick it up fairly quickly. Well, relatively: as I was an absolute beginner it actually took me… around the whole flight; i.e., about a day! So, be warned – this isn’t something you’ll get done in minutes, even hours. And for the beginners among you, I recommend reading up on the rules first, and then to do some simpler ones first to get some practice in and get up to speed.

Meanwhile, for you pros out there, here you go; knock yourself out! ->

Ahoy, Cape Hauy!

NB: with this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty, and reassurance that we’ll all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Onward we stroll, on the last day of our trek along Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula. On today’s menu – getting to Cape Hauy. Over there… ->

At first it was the usual sturdy path with super views, but a bit later we entered a really strange wood…

Read on…

Unsecure ATMs should be quarantined too!

Each year, accompanied by travel companions, I tend to take more than a hundred flights all around the world. And practically everywhere these days we always pay by card or phone, and mostly contactless like Apple or Google Pay. In China you can even pay via WeChat when you’re at the market buying fruit and veg from grannies. And the sadly famous biovirus makes the use of virtual money more popular even still.

At the other end of the spectrum, you get the odd surprise: in Hong Kong, of all places, you need to pay cash for a taxi – always! In Frankfurt, of all places, last year in two separate restaurants they only took cash too. EH?!! We had to go on a long search for an ATM and withdraw euros instead of enjoying our post-dinner brandy. The inhumanity! :) Anyway, all this goes to prove that, despite there being progressive payment systems in place all around the globe, there still appears to be a need for the good old ATM everywhere too, and it looks like that need won’t be going away any time soon.

So what am I driving at here? Of course, cybersecurity!…

ATMs = money ⇒ they’ve been hacked, they’re getting hacked, and they’ll continue to be hacked – all the more. Indeed, their hacking is only getting worse: research shows how from 2017-2019 the number of ATMs attacked by malware more than doubled (by a factor of ~2.5).

Question: can the inside and outside of an ATM be constantly monitored? Surely yes, may well have been your answer. Actually, not so…

There are still plenty of ATMs in streets, in stores, in underpasses, in subway/metro stations with a very slow connection. They barely have enough broadband for managing transactions; they hardly get round to keeping watch of what’s going on around them too.

So, given this lack of monitoring because of the network connection, we stepped in to fill the gap and raise the security level of ATMs. We applied the best practices of optimization (which we’re masters of – with 25 years of experience), and also radically brought down the amount of traffic needed by our dedicated ‘inoculation jab’ against ATM threats – Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security, or KESS.

Get this: the minimum speed requirement for an internet connection for our KESS is… 56 kilobits (!!!) a second. Goodness! That’s the speed my dial-up modem in 1998!

Just to compare, the average speed of 4G internet today in developed nations is from between 30,000 and 120,000 kilobits per second. And 5G promises 100 million-plus kbps (hundreds of gigabits) (that is, if they don’t destroy all the masts before then). But don’t let prehistoric internet speeds fool you: the protection provided couldn’t be better. Indeed, many an effective manager could learn a thing or two from us about optimization without loss of quality.

Read on…

Blade Runner, Tasmanian version.

NB: with this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty, and reassurance that we’ll all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Onward we marched, along Three Capes Track. The time had come to visit Cape Pillar, from which mind-blowing views like this are to be enjoyed:

Around half of the seven kilometers to get there are walked along this elevated wooden path:

Read on…

Cyber-yesteryear – pt. 2: 1991-1992.

Herewith, I continue my tales from the cyber-old-school side. You’ve already had the first installment – about when I caught my very first fish virus, about our first antivirus utility, and about when I decided to go it alone to become a member of a profession that didn’t really exist back then (as a freelance antivirus analyst).

So, after a few weeks as a freelancer – which was basically a few weeks of doing not much at all as I couldn’t find any customers – I decided I needed to get a regular day job again with a company. So what I did was organize a ‘tender’ between three private companies that had offered me work.

One of them (KAMI) deserves a separate post of its own, so here I’ll just go over its main features. It was a rather large, and very multifaceted import-export-and-a-bit-of-everything-else company, which had a computer department that eventually broke off from KAMI to become independent. Its boss was Alexey Remizov, a great guy who believed in and helped me for many years.

But, back to the tender. Now, if two of the companies told me something like: ‘Sure, drop by next week, let’s discuss your offer’, Alexey suggested I come to his office the following morning, and the day after that he was showing me where my desk and computer were, putting some money in my hand as my first advance, deciding on a title for my ‘department’ – the ‘Anti-Virus Department’ (or something like that), and providing me with two employees.

My first work task – firing both employees! They just weren’t right. And I managed this first task ok – no hysterics, no conflicts: I think they agreed with me they weren’t the right ‘fit’.

Now, a bit more about KAMI (remember – in 1991)…

The computer department of KAMI was made up of around two dozen folks. But there was literally no money to be spent on computers! Therefore, the start-up capital came from sales of shoes imported from India, chocolate biscuits, the manufacture of a car alarm system, and systems of encoding TV signals (for paid TV). The only actual computer IT projects were my antivirus department and also a transputer department, which happened to be the most successful departments of KAMI back then.

What else can I recall from this time?

Actually, not a great deal, as I was too busy working 12-14 hours a day: I didn’t have time to take much notice of anything else, including politics. Still, let me think…

We rented our first office in… a kindergarten (!) in Strogino, a northwestern Moscow suburb. Later we moved to some premises in the Polytechnic Museum, then in Moscow State University, then a research institute, then another. We used to joke: in our early days the company went through all levels – besides high school ).

Our very first ‘office’ in Strogino

Read on…

Go easy on the traffic!

Sometimes we take it for granted, to be sure: unlimited internet access. We’re so lucky to have it. But I wonder if you remember a time when internet access was charged per-minute or per-megabyte of traffic? And when the (dial-up) speed was almost laughable by today’s standards? I mean, we’re now approaching 1GB speed in homes. Impressive…

High-speed internet really has helped out of course in the current covid situation. It’s enabled a great many (though by far not all) to be able to continue to work under lockdown. Imagine if this biological fiasco had occurred in the pre-internet era, or even in the nineties with its snail-like internet speeds. There’d be zero remote working for one thing. Imagine how much worse just that would have made things!

Of course, one could say imagine (wildy) how, if, say, Shakespeare, Boccaccio, Pushkin, and Newton had lived in times of quarantine + high-speed internet (Pushkin, curiously, actually was under quarantine, sitting out the cholera epidemic in Russia in 1830-1831; Boccaccio’s Decameron is about folks in lockdown avoiding the Black Death, but that’s beside the point; my point: no unlimited internet back then!), they’d never have given us Macbeth, the Decameron, Evgeny Onegin, or the Law of Universal Gravitation – as they’d have been too busy with their day jobs working from home! But I digress…

So, of course, we’re all happy as Larry that we have unlimited internet access – as consumers. For business, however – especially big business – internal corporate ‘unlimited’ causes budgets to be exceeded and profits to fall. This is due to the fact that, to provide the sufficient technical capacity for fast, stable and unlimited connectivity with high flows of traffic, a lot of kit is needed: network equipment, cables, ventilation; then there’s the servicing, electricity, etc. And so as to keep the cost of such kit as low as possible, a good system administrator constantly monitors traffic, forecasts peak loads, creates reserve channels, and a lot more besides. This is all in order to make sure the business has guaranteed provision of all the necessary network niceties it needs to keep that business running optimally, smoothly, with nothing getting overloaded or jammed, and with minimal lags.

Sounds impossible. Actually, well, let me explain how it’s possible…


One of the chief headaches for IT folks in large organizations with vast networks is updating: software distribution and patching – and sometimes involving huge files being transferred to every endpoint. Meanwhile, most vendors of software today really don’t give a hoot how big their updates are. So when you’ve gigabytes trying to be sent to thousands of PCs in an organization all together – that’s going to be a strain on the system > fragmentation > collapse.

Of course, the system administrators don’t permit such an ‘all-at-once’ scenario. There are many methods of optimization of the process; for example, scheduled updates (at night) or installation of specialized servers.

But this is still a bit risky, since occasionally there will be a need to update super quickly due to this or that crisis, and there’d be a collapse then. And when it comes to cybersecurity, every second update is a crisis-driven super-quick one – and there are sometimes dozens of updates a day.

Since the mid-2000s, when we started to enter the enterprise market, we needed a serious rethink of our traffic optimization for large organizations: how could we keep the network load down given the inevitably increasing sizes of our updates? // Ideally the load would be zero; better – less then zero ).

So rethink we did – and pulled off the impossible!…

What it took were: good brains, a keyboard and TCP/IP :). And we killed two birds with one stone…

After trying out various proposed solutions to the issue, we opted for… a system and method for determining and forming a list of update agents. Ok, what does this system do?

Our security solutions for business all employ Kaspersky Security Center (KSC) for management functions (btw: it was recently updated, with pleasant new features (including support for KasperskyOS)). Among the many other things you can do with KSC is remotely install and tweak our products on other network nodes, and also manage updating.

First KSC determines the topology of the network with the help of broadcast dispatches. Oops: that was a bit jargony; let me put it better: KSC first gets an overall picture of the characteristics of the network – how many nodes, what kind they are, where they are, their configuration, the channels between them, and so on. The process is somewhat like… the scanning for alien life in Prometheus!

This way, system administrators (i) can choose the most suitable nodes for the local rolling out of the updates, and (ii) conduct segmentation of the corporate network – to have a look at which computers work in one and the same segments. Let’s look in more detail at these two points…

Read on…