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Kaspersky releases hounds on London amid questions of Russian connections

As cybersecurity looks more like defence, geopolitics is intruding on the industry.

By Jimmy Nicholls

It is understandable why Eugene Kaspersky, founder of the security company that bears his name, might feel it is worth keeping some attack dogs close at hand.

Of late the Russian executive has felt more besieged than usual in the West, having been forced to defend himself publicly after Bloomberg alleged he was in cahoots with Russia’s secret service, in a retread of a longstanding line of attack.

Whether that was in mind when Kaspersky left seven canine statues at the entrance to its threat research centre in London, a short walk from Paddington station, is unclear. The firm maintains the dogs (mere statues, alas) are there for the threats, which will soon be subjected to full time analysis by three dedicated researchers.

Such intelligence is quickly becoming big business for security firms, both for the media attention it garners (see Kaspersky’s discovery of Carbanak, a cyber-gang thought to have stolen $1bn from banks around the world) and because of customer hunger for data on the latest malware and attack methods.

As David Emm, principal security researcher of the firm’s esteemed Global Research & Analysis Team says, the company already monitors 325,000 samples a day.

"What we have got with the opening of the research centre is the opportunity to draw together the people in this office and bring them into the same location, with the shared infrastructure and with connectivity to colleagues outside the UK," he says.

Emm takes special care to point out that Kaspersky have invested in separate computer systems to prevent "contamination" of the rest of the business. Aside from those ferocious attack dogs they have also bought a secured door to prevent misguided colleagues from accidentally infecting the lab through USB sticks.

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Decentralised security

If the company remains stoutly Russian the focus is increasingly towards the lucrative security markets of the US, Japan and Europe. Nikita Shvetsov, CTO at Kaspersky, remarks that finding skilled staff in his home country has become an increasing challenge.

Given the fact that Russia remains the primary research and development centre for the company, this seems bizarre. For his part Shvetsov is bemused by interest in the firm’s global arrangements. "I don’t really understand why people are so concerned about development in Moscow," he says, explaining that financial inflation in Russia has made "much more effective" to have the business there.

Despite his bafflement, suspicion of Russian involvement in cybercrime is hardly innovative. Whilst Kaspersky is thought to have avoided scrutiny of its home country, other firms have not been so generous. Earlier this year Taia Global, a security vendor, even linked Russia to the attack on Sony that the US blamed on North Korea.

Many researchers even consider Russia and its neighbours in Eastern Europe to be the cradle of global cybercrime. Much of the world’s spam could at one point be traced back to networks operated by Russians, a story outlined in Spam Nation by the security journalist Brian Krebs.

For Kaspersky such connections are tarnishing its image as it moves abroad. The expansion of the London office is part of a broader strategy in which the company decentralises itself while remaining quartered on Russian soil.

"We see that once our business is growing we really need to be closer to our potential customers and partners," says Shvetsov. "For us it’s necessary to be positioned in Europe, so that’s why we’re opening this site here."

Given that Europe brings in as much revenue as North America for Kaspersky, the company should not expect the press questions over its odd global positioning to stop on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps it would be wise to hire some real attack dogs for its next office launch.

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