Tag Archives: technology

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…

Source

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…

Topping the Top-3: transparently, for all to see.

You might think that we were lucky – in the right place at the right time – to have started out well as an enterprise and later becoming the world’s leading cybersecurity vendor. You’d be wrong! Now let me tell you a story…

Actually, back in the day, right at the beginning of our antivirus work, I we set myself ourselves a goal. An incredibly ambitious goal.

I remember it well. My long-time friend, Alexey De Mont De Rique, and I were at the tram stop waiting for the number six tram not far from Sokol metro station in Moscow some time in 1992 – back when we’d work 12-14 hours a day (‘Daddy’s working!’ my kids called me). I suggested to Alexey that ‘we need to set ourselves a goal’. His reply came something like: ‘Ok. What goal precisely, do you really think we need to set one, and how persistent should we be in attaining it?’ Something like that, anyway. My response: ‘Our goal should be to make the best antivirus in the world!’ Alexey chuckled. But he didn’t dismiss it. Instead, we simply set out on our journey toward reaching the goal – working hard harder, and always with our goal at the back of our minds. And it worked!…

How, exactly?

With the mentioned harder work, with inventiveness, and with somehow managing to survive and prosper through those very tough times in Russia [early 90s Russia: the collapse of the Soviet Union and its command economy, the struggles to switch ‘instantly’ to a market economy, inflation, joblessness, lawlessness…]. We toiled away non-stop. I detected new viruses; Alexey coded the user interface; and the antivirus database editor, Vadim Bogdanov (Assembler Jedi), used the Force to put together the various computer tools for what I was doing. Yes – in the early 90s there were just three of us! Then four, then five, then…

Now, remember how I started this blogpost by telling you our success wasn’t a matter of being in the right place at the right time? Well, there was some luck involved: in 1994 the world’s first ‘Antivirus Olympic Games’ took place – independent testing of security software at the University of Hamburg. Sure, we were lucky that this independent testing took place. But it wasn’t luck that we won!

Oh yes. We got the gold (a trend that has stuck with us to this day – as I’ll detail in this post). So from almost the very get-to, we got the very highest results in Hamburg. But it was catching. We kept on getting golds in other independent tests that were established around that time. Hurray!

Read on…

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Last week’s good vs. bad news

The good news last week? Well, I went to Chelyabinsk – that’s the first piece of good news. Okay. I need to keep score here. The referee blows the whistle. Game on. 1:0…

Our lineup of patent lawyers now takes to the field. They bring good news, too. We’ve won yet another patent infringement lawsuit in the States! I won’t waste time explaining; I’ll just quote our report from the frontline: “One more major lawsuit is added to our list of victories! Case closed – not a cent to pay out!”

What was the claim all about?

In a nutshell, Greater Boston Authentication Solutions (GBAS) didn’t like the operating principle of our Activation 2.0 technology, which allows a trial version to be upgraded to a full version by validating a ticket that contains various information. GBAS deemed that Activation 2.0 infringed on their patents: US5982892US6567793 and US7346583.

// I’ve intentionally added the links to their patents in case anyone is curious.

These patents, born back in 1997, describe a software activation technology that uses a digital signature. It’s all relatively straightforward: the developer creates a digital signature from received data and transfers it to the product. The product, using a built-in public key, validates the signature to see if it matches the user’s details and decides whether access should be given.

This is what it looks like at Kaspersky:

Read on…

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The one and only Chelyabinsk.

So my first business trip this year… Wait, what am I saying — this decade! :) Okay, so my first business trip this decade took me to the famed Chelyabinsk!

If you know Russia well, you know the stereotypes about how “tough/rugged” the people are here. But it’s not a bad thing! No, just the opposite, the jokes are reverent! One-liners like “People from Chelyabinsk are so tough that…” have turned the city into such a well-known brand that if I was… I don’t know, a taxi driver, I’d give everyone from here 10% off just out of respect! I can’t get enough of these memes! I searched the web for these memes and couldn’t stop laughing for 15 minutes :) The best part is that the jokes all mean well. The pictures and quotes are respectful in the vein of “don’t mess with Chelyabinsk”.

A question for %Russian hackers%: Got the guts to infect this Chelyabinsk flash drive? :)

In short, people in Chelyabinsk aren’t just tough, they’re very enterprising and keen on innovation. Years ago they were one of the first to recognize our newest solutions even when they were just prototypes. That’s a good a reason as any to take a trip to Chelyabinsk and show love to all these progressive guys and gals and guarantee the closest partnerships moving forward. “Peace and love,” as they say :) So ticket, plane, runway, sky! See ya Moscow! Next stop, Chelyabinsk!

Read on…

Cyber-news from the dark side: Er, who said you could sell my data?

January 28 is my aunt Olga’s birthday. It also happens to be Data Privacy Day. And my aunt Olga still isn’t aware! But she should be! For digital data is the currency of the new millennium. Accumulated knowledge of trillions of clicks and transactions – it’s a gold mine for any business. And multimillion-dollar businesses – lots of them – are based on the sale of these cyber-resources.

Global IT companies have more access to personal data than do countries. As a result, this topic is extremely important; it’s also toxic.

And, wherever there’s money – there are always bad guys. Cyber-bad-guys getting up to no good with folks’ data are forever multiplying in numbers. But even respectable companies may get up to no good with folks’ data too, and they seem to get away with – mostly. But more on that later…

Now, I’d like to ask a simple question – one to which, at least in global IT, there is no answer yet: ‘What is good and what is bad?’ I mean: where is the line between universal human morals and business ethics? Where is that fine line?

Alas, the question of cyber-ethics and cyber-morals is a very ambiguous one. Meanwhile, I can assure you that with the introduction of 5G and further sharp increases in the number of IoT devices, our data will be collected all the more. And more, and more…

Now for some detail: broken down into the main, most-pressing, interesting matters:

Lawyers, lawmakers, journalists, politicians, pundits, social commentators, philosophers… – not one of them can answer this question: ‘Who does data belong to?’ To users? To governments? To businesses? It would nice to think that users’ personal data belongs to those users themselves; at least up until when they may decide to voluntarily share it: when they fill in a form on a website, enter their name, telephone number and email to register for a newsletter, or thoughtlessly place a check in an app without reading through the small print of a lengthy legal agreement. Formally, from that moment on we give certain third parties the legal ability to handle our data, analyze it, sell it and whatever else is written (but rarely read) in the respective agreement. So does that mean that from that moment the data belongs to those third parties, too?

Much of the problem lies in the fact that the term ‘personal data’ is very vague and ephemeral – not only from the standpoint of the user but also from the legal one. Laws often can’t keep up with technological development. Nevertheless, on the whole over recent years the tendency has been clear: new laws being passed on the protection of personal data and the updating of existing legislation. In parallel, people’s attitudes toward personal data and privacy have become a lot more serious – something that of course I’m very happy to see.

Enough of my ‘intro’; let’s move on to the main dish…

Last week there was quite the scandal reported in the press involving Avast, one of the major players in the AV market.

Vice published an expose detailing how Avast has for years been giving data of its users that it collects to one of its subsidiaries – Jumpshot – which in turn then sells it to third-party companies. Those third-party companies thus got access to information on the online behavior of users: what websites were visited, movements from sites to sites, GPS coordinates of users of Google Maps, YouTube viewing histories, and lots more besides. And though the data wasn’t associated with specific individuals, IP addresses or emails – in other words it was anonymous – the data did come with identifiers, which keep working up until when a user may delete their Avast antivirus from their computer

Of course, this is nothing short of scandalous from an ethical point of view. We here at K have never allowed such a thing to happen, and never would; and we firmly believe that any earnings made from data of your users is simply beyond the pale.

The epilogue of this sorry tale was a formal apology from Avast’s CEO, in an announcement about the termination of Jumpshop. In my view, that was the only appropriate thing to do. I understand it mustn’t have been easy, and there will have been big financial losses, but still. Well done for doing the right thing in the end.

For us, the matter of data storage and its usage has long been a priority. Back in 2017 we launched our Global Transparency Initiative, moved our data processing for European users (plus other countries) to Zurich, since then have opened two more Transparency Centers, and are soon to open two more. Projects like this aren’t cheap; but we feel we simply must set new standards of openness and a serious attitude to personal data.

More details about our principles of data processing, about how our cloud-based KSN works, anonymization of data, and other important things you can find here. But I just want to add, addressing all our users, that, rest assured: we never make any compromises with our conscience – ever.

Often, the collection and sale of data is carried out by free antivirus software, covering things like surveillance of users for advertising purposes and the trade in their confidentiality, all to make money. As you’ll know, we also have a free version of our AV, based on the same protection-tech as our other, paid-for products, whose effectiveness is constantly confirmed in independent tests. And though the functionality of the free version is rather stripped down, it’s still a piece of AV we’re very proud of, delivering users solid and reliable protection and leaking no personal data for advertisers. Users deserve the best protection – without annoying adverts and privacy trading. But I’ve been saying that years.

Something else I’ve been talking about for years is my own paranoid very serious attitude to my own personal data. One more time: I only ever give it out when it is wholly necessary, which I recommend you do too. I understand it’s difficult to fully realize the importance of this, when its so intangible and when the ‘price’ of our data is impossible to estimate. Just remember – every click, every site you visit – someone (rather – something), somewhere is making a record of it, and it never gets deleted. So come on folks, lets get serious about our digital footprint; and more serious about how we view the companies and products to which you entrust your personal – private – data.

PS: We recently launched a useful site with detailed recommendations for protecting your personal digital life. Here you can find the most important privacy settings for popular social networks, online services and operating systems. Have a look!

Biometrics. Lord of the ring!

It’s now perfectly normal to unlock your phone or computer with a fingerprint – nobody would bat an eyelid. In fact, more and more biometric data is being collected, whether it be facial, voice or iris recognition. This type of authentication appears to be very reliable because every human’s physical and behavioral features are unique. However, very few think of where all that data is stored and how it’s protected. What if somebody gains access to it?

According to our experts, in Q3 2019 alone, 37% of computers used to store and process biometric data faced the risk of a malware infection at least once. Of these, more than 5% were infected with spyware. The main sources of infection were the internet, removable media such as flash drives, and email clients.

When your password is leaked, it’s annoying, but it’s easy to change it. But what do you do if cybercriminals get access to your fingerprints? You don’t have a spare set of fingers! We’ve given the problem some thought … and come up with a solution! :)

In early December in Milan, together with Swedish designer Benjamin Waye, we presented a unique prototype ring used for authentication.

Read on…

Dear Father Christmas: I’d like a sandbox please!

Hi folks, or should that be – ho, ho, ho, folks? For some have said there is a faint resemblance… but I digress – already!

Of course, Christmas and New Year are upon us. Children have written their letters to Santa with their wish lists and assurances that they’ve been good boys and girls, and Rudolph & Co. are just about ready to do their bit for the logistical miracle that occurs one night toward the end of each year. But it’s not just the usual children’s presents Father Christmas and his reindeer will be delivering this year. They’ll also be giving out something that they’ve long been getting requests for: a new solution for fighting advanced cyberattacks – Kaspersky Sandbox! Let me tell you briefly about it…

Basically it’s all about emulation. You know about emulation, right? I’ve described it quite a few times on these here blog pages before, most recently earlier this year. But, just in case: emulation is a method that encourages threats to reveal themselves: a file is run in a virtual environment that imitates a real computer environment. The behavior of a suspicious file is studied in a ‘sandbox’ with a magnifying glass, Sherlock-style, and upon finding unusual (= dangerous) actions the object is isolated so it does no more harm and so it can be studied more closely.

Analyzing suspicious files in a virtual environment isn’t new technology. We’ve been using it for our internal research and in our large enterprise projects for years (I first wrote about it on this here blog in 2012). But it was always tricky, toilsome work, requiring constant adjustment of the templates of dangerous behaviors, optimization, etc. But we kept on with it, as it was – and still is – so crucial to our work. And this summer, finally, after all these years, we got a patent for the technology of creating the ideal environment for a virtual machine for conducting quick, deep analysis of suspicious objects. And a few months ago I told you here that we learned how to crack this thanks to new technologies.

It was these technologies that helped us launch the sandbox as a separate product, which can now be used direct in the infrastructure of even small companies; moreover, to do so, an organization doesn’t need to have an IT department. The sandbox will carefully and automatically sift the wheat from the chaff – rather, from cyberattacks of all stripes: crypto-malware, zero-day exploits, and all sorts of other maliciousness – and without needing a human analyst!

So who will really find this valuable? First: smaller companies with no IT dept.; second: large companies with many branches in different cities that don’t have their own IT department; third: large companies whose cybersecurity folks are busy with more critical tasks.

To summarize, what the Sandbox does is the following:

  • Speedy processing of suspicious objects;
  • Lowering load on servers;
  • Increasing the speed and effectiveness of reactions to cyberthreats;
  • As a consequence of (i)–(iii) – helping out the bottom line!

So what we have is a useful product safeguarding the digital peace-of-mind of our favorite clients!

PS: And the children who behave and listen to their parents will of course be writing letters to Santa toward the end of 2020, too. Sure, they’ll be getting their usual toys and consoles and gadgets. But they’ll also be getting plenty of brand-new super-duper K-tech too. You have more word for it!…

Yours sincerely,

Father Christmas

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question in 30 years…

Hi folks!

Can you guess what question I’m asked most of all during interviews and press conferences?

It started being asked back in the 1990s, quickly becoming the feared question that used to make me want to roll my eyes (I resisted the temptation:). Then after a few years I decided to simply embrace its inevitability and unavoidability, and started to improvise a bit and add extra detail to my answers. And still today, though my answers have been published and broadcast in probably all the mass media in the whole world – often more than once – I am asked it over and over, again and again. Of late though, it’s like I’ve come full circle: when I’m asked it I actually like to remember those days of long ago!

So, worked it out yet?

The question is: ‘What was the first virus you found?’ (plus questions relating to it, like when did I find it, how did I cure the computer it had infected, etc.).

Clearly, an important question, since, if it weren’t for it infecting my computer all those years ago: I may not have made a rather drastic career change; I may not have created the best antivirus in the world; I may not have raised one of the largest private companies in cybersecurity, and a lot more besides. So yes, a fateful role did that virus play – that virus that was among the early harbingers of what was to follow: billions of its ‘descendants’, then, later, cybercrime, cyberwarfare, cyber-espionage, and all the cyber-bad-guys behind it all – in every corner of the globe.

Anyway – the answer finally, perhaps?…

The virus’s name was Cascade.

But, why, suddenly, all the nostalgia about this virus?

Read on…

Threat Intelligence Portal: We need to go deeper.

I understand perfectly well that for 95% of you this post will be of no use at all. But for the remaining 5%, it has the potential to greatly simplify your working week (and many working weekends). In other words, we’ve some great news for cybersecurity pros – SOC teams, independent researchers, and inquisitive techies: the tools that our woodpeckers and GReAT guys use on a daily basis to keep churning out the best cyberthreat research in the world are now available to all of you, and free at that, with the lite version of our Threat Intelligence Portal. It’s sometimes called TIP for short, and after I’ve said a few words about it here, immediate bookmarking will be mandatory!

The Threat Intelligence Portal solves two main problems for today’s overstretched cybersecurity expert. First: ‘Which of these several hundred suspicious files should I choose first?’; second: ‘Ok, my antivirus says the file’s clean – what’s next?’

Unlike the ‘classics’ – Endpoint Security–class products, which return a concise Clean/Dangerous verdict, the analytic tools built into the Threat Intelligence Portal give detailed information about how suspicious a file is and in what specific aspects. And not only files. Hashes, IP addresses, and URLs can be thrown in too for good measure. All these items are quickly analyzed by our cloud and the results on each handed back on a silver platter: what’s bad about them (if anything), how rare an infection is, what known threats they even remotely resemble, what tools were used to create it, and so on. On top of that, executable files are run in our patented cloud sandbox, with the results made available in a couple of minutes.

Read on…

Guess which company made the ‘Top-100 Global Innovators’!

Hi folks!

Regular readers of my blog will know how I occasionally write about some of our less noticeable – but no less important – business successes: those related to our patents and how they help us fight – incredibly – not just cyber-evil, but also patent trolls who do nothing but hinder technological progress.

I said ‘success’. Well here’s out latest: we’ve become the first Russian company to enter the Derwent Top 100 Global Innovators! Hurray!

Read on…