In his presentation, CEO Eugene Kaspersky touched upon several topics including ‘general malware’ and how Kaspersky now detects 3,80,000 new viruses a day, up from a mere 50 in 1998. In an interview on the sidelines of the event, Eugene talked about his company, global cybersecurity and also where India stands in terms of cybersecurity. Edited excerpts:
How did you start Kaspersky Labs?
I was a software engineer, working with the Soviet Union military, and my computer was infected in 1989. I was just curious about what it was and how they (viruses) work. So, I analyzed the codes and understood them. I told my colleagues about this, and in a couple of weeks, another colleague came to me saying a floppy disk of his was infected. Soon, I had a collection of such viruses.
After that, I stopped working with the government and got a job with an IT company (as a cyber security expert), which later collapsed. I wanted to continue working -- so I started Kaspersky. There was no investment, but there was a lot of hard work, initially.
How does India rank in terms of internet safety?
The safest region in the world is northern Europe, which is deep green in colour (green being the safest, and red unsafe). Then you have the lighter green areas in Europe. Russia is yellow, and India is light red. After that, come other south-east Asian countries, which are in the deep red zone.
Given India’s size and growing number of internet users, the vulnerability to cyber crime is also high. How do we as users tackle the issue of cyber attacks?
It is very simple. We need to reach out to users and create awareness. We also provide schools with materials about cyber security, to educate children about safety on the internet. For individual users, you need to have good (internet) security installed. Don’t click on every link. Even if you know the sender and find an unexpected mail, then call back (to verify). Be sceptical about things.
During the launch of your new Transparency Centre in Malaysia, you described Artificial Intelligence (AI) as marketing. What makes you think so?
It is not actually Artificial Intelligence — it is just self-learning or machine learning, based on big data processing. Take face recognition. Is it AI? No. It can recognize only human faces, not horses or dogs. So come on. We use a lot of machine learning, or big data processing. In my presentation, I said that we are able to process about 99.999% of all the incoming data, but we don’t call it AI.
The US government in 2017 asked all of its departments to stop using Kaspersky anti-virus citing an intelligence risk (fearing involvement of the Russian government). Your reaction?
It is just not true, and they use the media to attack us without having any proof or real data. You have to ask them why.
Kaspersky Labs recently signed a partnership with Interpol. Could you elaborate more on that?
We work with law and enforcement, national cyber police and also with Interpol, with which we are strategic partners. Recently, we renewed our licence with Interpol. If and when they have questions about cyber crime, we assist them with that.
How many countries, or governments, is Kaspersky working with across the world, at present?
We are working in about 100 or more countries, and with governments in all the regions.
How many clients or users does Kaspersky Labs have worldwide right now?
We have corporate enterprises, which have unlimited licences, plus we are partners with many hardware makers as well to protect their gateways and corporate networks. So, it is hard to give numbers. But roughly we have about 400 million users.