Computer Crime Research Center


Russia's cybercrime-fighting Bond villain

Date: January 11, 2005
Source: ZDNet UK
By: Dan Llett

Antivirus guru Eugene Kaspersky says criminals are responsible for an increasing amount of malware

Three large and weathered Russian women fiercely stand guard at the entrance to a former Soviet nuclear missile building. We show them our passports half wondering if they are as amused as we are, but they glare back coldly without hint of a smile and wave us through.

Walking along the gloomy corridor to the office, the interior looks tatty and has crumbling walls. But on entering Kaspersky Labs proper, the scenery changes. Manning the computers in the spacious modern offices are the antivirus researchers nicknamed 'woodpeckers' for their ability to hammer viruses within minutes of detection.

Sitting behind a large desk at the back of the room is Eugene Kaspersky - a pony-tailed Russian in his early forties with a wry smile. On his desk are two heavy weapons - a wooden flail and a long, heavy bone he says was once a Walrus penis. They are useful for keeping the woodpeckers under control, he jokes. On the wall behind the desk is a dramatic portrait of a younger Kaspersky looking for all the world like a James Bond villain. Surrounded by three beautiful women -- one of whom is Natalya, his ex-wife and CEO of the company -- the young Kaspersky has a self-aware expression and holds a globe in his hands.

Kaspersky built the antivirus labs which bear his name from scratch during the 1990s. A graduate of the Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications and Computer Science, he worked in military scientific research institute until 1991. He began studying computer viruses in 1989, when he discovered the Cascade virus on his own computer.

Are you seeing an increase in the number of viruses and hack attacks that seem to have a criminal rather than randomly malicious intent?
After you hear stories of hackers getting money from attacking systems, I think there are more hackers attracted [to crime] by that. There is an attitude that people don't understand that cybercrime is not just a virtual thing -- it's real life too. But what is going on is criminalisation of the Internet. Five years ago, 50 percent of the malware was written by hooligans and 50 percent by criminals. But this has gone up. Now it's 90 percent criminals. Hooligans are not only teenagers either. There was a guy back in 1994 who was arrested for virus writing. He was 30-something. I saw an interview with him. He was brilliant, but quite a lot older.

You say that 90 percent of malware you see is sent by criminals. Are we talking organised crime here or random individuals?
I think at the moment they are individuals or small groups. Probably most of them don't understand that what they are doing is against the law. These people just don't understand. But anyone using computer systems to send spam or spy on people is a criminal. Then again, some of them do understand and they try to hide themselves from the police.

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