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#1 IStogov


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Posted 12 October 2006 - 11:37 AM

Inside Kaspersky Labs: AV at the cold heart of Russia
Viruses fail to spread in Siberian temperatures...

By Will Sturgeon

Published: Wednesday 25 January 2006

It's -40°c outside as I'm driven through the barren, ice-bound outskirts of Moscow to meet up with Russian antivirus company Kaspersky Labs.

News of this incredible cold snap - the city's coldest in 50 years - reached London the day before departure but nothing can prepare you for just what such an incredible temperature feels like.

One advantage is that the usual journey time is halved as the roads, normally gridlocked with traffic, are practically empty as many cars and vehicles have simply stopped working.

The building, of which Kaspersky occupies four floors, was the headquarters of the agency responsible for developing Soviet nuclear weapons guidance systems during the cold war.

Photo Gallery It goes without saying that such a heritage is synonymous with high levels of security, though the building itself, guarded at the front desk by two elderly ladies, looks like any other anonymous high rise.

And inside, out of the crippling cold, the Soviet-era decor is bleak and unwelcoming.

But in an industry where style all too often takes precedent over substance there is something defiantly appropriate about the setting. With its military background, it sounds a note of pragmatism which acknowledges that all the pot plants, pool tables and 21st century office space in the world won't help Kaspersky's high-flying Silicon Valley rivals fight viruses any more effectively.

This is a war after all. And it is one which is raging currently.

At this office and around the world Kaspersky virus analysts receive around 50,000 pieces of malicious code each month. The company has 200,000 signatures in its antivirus database.

There are people out there with broken minds like mine who think every time they see something new, 'how can I break that'?. That is how I have to think too so I know how to stop them.

-- Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder, Kaspersky Labs
On the eighth floor of the building the analysts are hard at work. Two teams work 12-hour shifts at the keyboard, unpacking, analysing, defining and reporting the code samples received. Within 15 minutes, as hands move at lightning speed over the keyboard, a definition will be available, claims team leader Eugene Kaspersky, who co-founded the company in 1997.

Kaspersky calls his team 'the woodpeckers' because they hammer away, and hammer away with speed and determination.

"I love these guys," he says. "They are great guys." Typically they are students in a work-placement year of their studies or fresh out of school or university. They normally last about a year or 18 months in the job, though Kaspersky says this is because they progress to new positions and refutes the suggestion 'burn out' could be responsible, given the pressure and the length of shifts.

They learn much of what they know on the job, despite the fact Kaspersky tells silicon.com he's not opposed to the growing and controversial trend of malware finding itself on the university curriculum.

"But it is easier for us to get young guys, clever guys, and then teach them what they need to know."

And they are all guys, save for one exception, while the staff who analyse spam in an adjoining room are all women, by luck rather than judgement, explains Kaspersky.

Even with its cover and author's name written in Cyrillic, it's difficult to miss the fact that one of the virus analysts is currently reading a book by Kevin Mitnick - the poster child of computer hacking.

Kaspersky says it's not recommended reading, though more because "it's not even a very good book" but he says he's not worried that one of his talented woodpeckers may be tempted to fly the nest in search of the potential rich pickings of a life of crime.

"There is a risk, of course," he says. "But that risk is almost zero." Kaspersky claims he can see it in an applicant's eyes and can sense what they are like as a person upon meeting them. He adds that the team spirit and the fact everybody works so closely means it would be immediately apparent if somebody's mind was wandering.

But he concedes the knowledge and the mindsets of the two groups - simply put the good guys and the bad guys - are very similar.

"There are people out there with broken minds like mine who think every time they see something new, 'how can I break that'?. That is how I have to think too so I know how to stop them," he told silicon.com.

And it is clearly a job he enjoys - more of a hobby in fact.

"If you can do your hobby and you can make money then it's good. We do what we like to do and it makes money."

But in an industry rife with consolidation Kaspersky has its head well above the parapet, with its antivirus engine used by 84 OEM partners, including Blue Coat, Clearswift, F-Secure, Nokia and Sybari. Of those 84, 30 signed up just last year, indicating the momentum which Kaspersky is currently enjoying. Last year revenues grew by 75 per cent.

It seems unthinkable that a big offer won't be forthcoming.

"We were asked this a lot last year about being acquired, but why?" said Kaspersky, who still wants his name above the door as he strives to fulfil his own ambitions for the company.

"I want to be number one in the in the antivirus industry and why not?"

The man himself. Company co-founder Eugene Kaspersky has become a respected antivirus expert. Here he talks about the changing face of the virus writing community, with spotty teenagers, keen to prove themselves through some manner of mischief, making way for serious cyber criminals.

Kaspersky is the technical heartbeat of the company and runs the teams of antivirus analysts in the Moscow office.

St Basil's Cathedral is an image which is unmistakably Russian. But not all associations are so attractive to day trippers and overseas visitors.

Unfortunately among the other things Russia has become closely associated with in recent years is cyber crime - the writing of malicious code, predominantly for financial gain.

Despite this, the city is also home to a fast growing force in the IT security market. silicon.com recently travelled to the Russian capital to visit the offices of Kaspersky Labs.

The company's Russian roots are never far from display. This picture on the wall of CEO Natalya Kaspersky, shows her meeting Vladimir Putin.

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#2 Kilauea


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Posted 12 October 2006 - 04:03 PM

Thanks for the article. ;)


#3 Jingtian


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Posted 12 October 2006 - 05:55 PM

A well-written article, I like it. And I'm glad that Eugene didn't and won't let the Kaspersky Lab be acquired.

#4 Daniel



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Posted 18 October 2006 - 11:45 PM

Ya, indeed, a little insider of Kaspersky work.

#5 Eddie Z.A

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 06:44 PM

interesting. :whistle:

Last time i remember format my laptop when i just hit and infected by Blaster Worm at that time i use product " M " and after that " N " and still not good enough. Nowdays i surf with product " K " and never get hit and infected again by anything.