Star City.

Greetings all!

Here we are again. September. The holiday month of August over, and it’s back to work – which for me means back on the road or, rather, in the plane. This season is set to see me doing my usual globetrotting thing, but with the itinerary including some new countries and new events. Goodo, gotta keep some novelty in there! The schedule needs to stay real flexible as plans can easily change real quick, as experience has shown many times. This year I may even break my previous record – or maybe better put, dubious record – of 100 flights made in a year. This year I’ve already notched up 59… (I keep careful count of them, just in case).

But between Kamchatka and the next whirlwind tour, I really wanted to “lay low in MOW” for a few weeks, get my bearings, regroup, ground myself, and all that – and re-familiarize myself with the abode and city I – on paper – reside in. I figured this necessary as I’d started forgetting which switch is for the kitchen and which for the hall! Thus, today – a story and pics about a trip to a really interesting place in the Moscow Region – the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. This place is really something – I highly recommend a visit. A day excursion can be arranged where they show and tell you all, let you poke and prod the various exhibits and climb inside the spaceships in which they train cosmonauts (who keep appearing in the hall walking about to and fro, to the delight of the excursioners).

You can clamber inside the reentry capsule of Soyuz in which cosmonauts return back to earth. The guides go into all sorts of detail about space missions and the landing back on earth, about particular cases, and so on and on and on… I won’t tell you it all here. Best see it and hear it all for yourselves in the flesh.

Training Center Dummy

More: centrifuges, hydro-pool, planetarium and MIR space station …

Kamchatka-2012: Volcanism.

Day 15 (for the second group – day 1). Heading north.

If you ever happen to one day find yourself in Kamchatka, specifically in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and you have a free day on which the weather is good and the wallet is sufficiently bulging, then it’s perfectly feasible to have yourself a fantastic day to remember. What you do is organize a helicopter excursion and head north – to Klyuchevskaya Sopka and back. Such a day-excursion comes highly recommended – a total mind… flip – is guaranteed!

As mentioned – you need to sort yourself a helicopter, which really should be ordered in advance. After having done so, you pray for fine weather on the day of your trip. It’s a good idea to take spare batteries with you for your cameras and similar kit, as you’ll find you use them pretty much non-stop.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been on numerous helicopter excursions all over the planet – but in terms of the sheer overload of impressions, Kamchatka leads by a mile.

En route we flew over several volcanoes (including an erupting one, but which by next season may die down), the hissing caldera of the Uzon volcano (with a touchdown and excursion), the Valley of the Geysers (touchdown & excursion), the Kluchevskaya group of volcanoes, and the Northern Fissure (where we walked along the peaks of red hills). Unforgettable!

// For those in need of more details re all the below-listed, click here, or search the net.

1. Karymsky, 1536m – a permanently active volcano:

Karymsky Volcano

More: An unforgettable day …

Catching the Phishes.

I’m not completely sure why, but  somehow since the invention of the Internet, there has always existed a stereotypical attitude towards all things WWW. That attitude sees the net as little more than a toy, while the viruses that come with it are put down to mere playing about at best, and just hooliganism at worst. However, the reality is quite something else – especially lately.

Remember Cascade and other similar viruses? Ah, so naïve and innocent compared to what was to come… Fast forward a couple of decades and the bad guys started stealing data, Trojanizing computers for zombie networks to perform distributed attacks, and milking bank accounts. And today we’ve arrived at attacks on industrial, infrastructural and military systems. Some toy!

We need to get away from such a stereotype ASAP. Faulty impressions give cybercrime a romantic aura, which in turn attracts the younger generations of would-be cybergeeks-come-cybercriminals – who can’t seem to grasp the seriousness of their “fun” or understand how many years they could face in jail.

Then there’s another stereotype: that computer crime pays, and the perpetrators don’t get caught. Romanticism! Ok, it’s true that several years ago in many countries computer crime was in fact not all that often prosecuted; however, now that situation has changed: the law enforcement bodies have both the experience and know-how required, have made great strides in terms of cyber-criminalistics (cyber-CSI stuff), and have established good working relations with professionals, all leading them to now being able to solve one hi-tech crime after another.

We are always ready to assist national and international law enforcement agencies if they request it. I think the development of such cooperation is crucial for the successful fight against cybercrime – as security companies are the ones that possess the necessary knowledge.

Now, let me give you an illustrative example of how it works in Russia.

More: Catching the phishes …

Crowdsourcing in Security.

To think of all the yummy stuff the Internet has brought us, though interesting, would probably be a waste of time: by the time you’d have finished totting up all the scrumptiousness you remember, just as much new scrummyness would have appeared. But there is one particular Internet-delicacy concept that, due to its importance and value, should really never be overlooked, even in just a “Best Hits” of the Internet. This concept deserves closer consideration. And this concept is crowdsourcing.

I won’t go into loads of detail – you can get that at the other end of the Wikipedia link above (incidentally, Wikipedia is also a crowdsourcing project :) or via a search engine. Here, let me briefly go through the idea:

The WWW permits large numbers of folks from all over the world to very quickly all get together and combine efforts to solve some kind of difficult task or other. The result is collective intelligence, backed up by gigahertz, gigabytes and terabytes of computers and communication channels. Technically, its all about the sharing and allocation of computing power. For example, I remember well how at the end of the nineties many at night connected their comps to SETI@Home – a non-commercial project that searched for radio signals of extraterrestrial civilizations. The project is still going, with 1.2 million participants and a total processing power running up to 1.6 petaflops.

SETI@home

Perhaps surprisingly, you’ll generally find network crowdsourcing being applied in practically every sphere of life. And security is no exception. Recent examples: the international brainstorming that went into solving the Duqu Framework, and into trying to crack the mystery of the encrypted Gauss payload. (For the former, by the way, we received a rather flattering write-up on darkreading.com.) Still, these cases aren’t really the best examples of crowdsourcing at work…

The best example is probably to be found in the way we (KL) successfully process 125,000 samples of malware every day (up from 70,000 late last year). Of course, robots and other technologies of automation and data-flow analysis help, but the most important ingredient to make it all work – the statistical food – is furnished by you! Yes, you! The system’s a big you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours gig in which our users help both us and one another in the business of preventing cyber break-ins around the world, and in particular of tackling unknown threats. And everyone helps anonymously and voluntarily after having clearly expressed a willingness to take part; and none of it affecting computer performance!

More: Let me tell you how it works …

Kamchatka-2012: The Battle for Mutnovka.

Mutnovsky volcano and environs (locally known simply as Mutnovka) are made up – handily – of three birds (killed with one stone) and a bonus track.

First, there’s Mutnovka itself – an active volcano of indescribable beauty, a canyon, ice cap, craters, streams, steam vents, sulfuric springs, and so on and so forth. Second, there’s Gorely – also a volcano, but nothing like Mutnovka, so also very interesting and visit-worthy. (By the way, right before our last trip here, in 2010, Gorely suddenly started to hiss and gurgle – so we gave it a miss then, just in case.) Third, amazing lava fields, caves and tunnels. And the bonus track? I’ll get to that a bit later…

The great thing about the place is that all four sights are close together: you can walk among all four quite easily in minutes, not hours.

Mutnovsky volcano

More: The weather takes a sharp turn …

Windows 8: We’re Ready Already

Greetings droogs!

The new version of KIS is attracting quite a bit of buzz in the media: in the two weeks since its global premiere it has been receiving gushing review after gushing review. Just about all of them go into plenty of detail covering all the ins and outs of the product, and specific features have been covered here on this blog of mine – for example posts about automatic protection from vulnerabilities and making secure payments.

But KIS has one more delicious layer of features; however, they can’t be used yet, and will only become applicable in the (nearest) future (we really mean it when we say Be Ready for What’s Next, you know!). These futuresque featuresques are undeservedly not getting the limelight. I’m talking about KIS support for Windows 8.

So what are these technologies, how do they fit in with Win8, and what are the benefits for users?

I’ll start with the most obvious: the new Windows 8 interface. I haven’t had a test-drive myself, but I’ve heard lots of good things about it and read flattering reviews. The fully redesigned interface is really not bad looking at all, and that goes for the desktop version and the tablet-touchscreen-mobile incarnation. I’m looking forward to its release and the reactions of users…

At the same time it has to be said that this new kid on the block has significantly increased the proverbial pain in the neck for third-party software developers: in order to cater to the whole spectrum of user preferences it was deemed necessary to have two interfaces – the classic one we’re all used to, and the new go-faster-stripes one. In response, we’ve been one of the first in the antivirus industry to develop a special application that transfers the antivirus management features to the new Windows 8 interface. The application is free of charge, and you can download and install it from the Windows Store.

Kaspersky Now For Windows

More: Fighting rootkits in Win8…

Kamchatka-2012: Rocking the Ksudach.

Days 3-4-5. Ksudach.

We flew from Kurile Lake to Ksudach by helicopter. We could have got there by foot of course, but, first, no one knew the way; second, we couldn’t find a crazy enough guide; and third, no one really fancied battling through the dense undergrowth. Oh, and fourth: the whole route is cut with bears. Maybe next time we should prepare beforehand and work out a passable route – one that would also take in Kambalny volcano. From Google Maps it looks rather tempting.

Ksudach
Kambalny Google Map

More: Building the paddling pools inside the volcano…

Social Networks: the Force Is Strong with These Ones.

Prologue

The history of social networks is pretty much like Star Wars. Really! Social networks started out obscure and mysterious, with folks saying, “There’s this new type of site, with enormous capabilities and hidden business opportunities, which no one can estimate at present, but in the future will truly make all people truly connected, free and equal!” It’s pure Eastern-spirituality-influenced George Lucas – about “bringing balance to the Force.” And so it came to pass – social networks became a perfect communication ground for all – ordinary folks, companies, and the media.

Of course, with such a boring script you’re hardly going to get a blockbuster movie :-). Let’s face it, you can’t have folks living happily ever after (and all with equal rights, opportunities, etc., etc.) at the start of a film, can you?! The story needs an insidious infernal plan pursued by dark forces to arise. And – voila! – that’s what we got. Social networks became the medium of choice for games played by the world’s intelligence services and manipulation of public opinion – about which I’ve written and talked plenty before.

So, Star Wars: A New Hope has finished. The next chapter has begun:

The Empire Strikes Back

“Forming public opinion” via social networks has for several years already been practiced rather successfully by governments of many countries, no matter their political traditions or leanings. With so much open and free (no cost) information on the surface – no digging necessary – folks themselves tell all about their news, interesting information, whereabouts, lists of colleagues, friends and professional contacts. And the bizarre thing is that anyone who can access that data – private individuals, companies, criminals, members of a cross-stich embroidery group… (you get the point). The data lies about on the surface and people continue (despite warnings) to put more and more such data on the Internet. But with the many APIs crisscrossing social networks acting as mutagens that speed up the evolution, information uploaded one day on just one network is the next day forever (literally: eternally) indexed in search engines.

At the same time the intelligence services have happily joined social networks – becoming “users” themselves – but with their own agenda, naturally. For ordinary folks social networks are mostly a source of reading matter; for companies they’re a source of – or tool for – sales and marketing; but for intelligence services social networks represent a vital means for protecting state interests, and can also be used as weapons against potential opponents.

More: The vicious circle and Return of the Jedi …

Kamchatka-2012: History. And Why You Can Never Trust a Bear.

Day 3. Kutkhiniy Batiy

Before Russians settled on Kamchatka it was populated by Itelmens, Koryaks, Evens, Chukchi and Aleut. The first Russian expeditions to, and settlements on, Kamchatka, and the peninsula’s becoming part of the Russian state all took place in the seventeenth century. Then the Crimean war kicked off, which in 1854 reached as far as peaceful Kamchatka. That was followed by the Russian-Japanese War in 1904… But for a complete history of Kamchatka, have a look here.

But let me tell you an Itelmen legend about the creation of Kamchatka and how the Kutkhiniy Batiy came into existence, as told by our guide – a local hunter.

Kutkhiniy Batiy

More: Once upon a time there lived a hardworking raven called Kutkh …