Cyberfirm Kaspersky seeks to win back trust over Russia spy claims

This photo taken on Jan. 30, 2017 shows a sign above the headquarters of Kaspersky Lab in Moscow. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
Updated 23 October 2017
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Cyberfirm Kaspersky seeks to win back trust over Russia spy claims

PARIS: Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab announced on Monday it will allow third parties to analyze its antivirus software in an attempt to rule out accusations of spying for the Kremlin.
“We want to show how we’re completely open and transparent. We’ve nothing to hide,” company founder Eugene Kaspersky said while launching what was dubbed a “global transparency initiative.”
“Cybersecurity has no borders, but attempts to introduce national boundaries in cyberspace is counterproductive and must be stopped. We need to reestablish trust in relationships between companies, governments and citizens,” he said in a statement.
The Russian-based company has been accused of being a vehicle for hackers to steal security secrets from the US National Security Agency, and was banned by all American government agencies last month.
The software firm has repeatedly argued it has no ties to any government and has claimed it is simply caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight.
“Kaspersky Lab will engage the broader information security community and other stakeholders in validating and verifying the trustworthiness of its products, internal processes, and business operations,” the company said in the statement.
“As part of the initiative, the company intends to provide the source code of its software — including software updates and threat-detection rules updates — for independent review and assessment.”
Kaspersky’s software, widely respected for its virus-catching effectiveness, is used on millions of computers around the world.
The company has said it will open “transparency centers,” beginning in 2018, to address security issues with customers, partners and government stakeholders.
Three centers will open in Asia, Europe and the US by 2020, it said.
US media reports have accused the company of facilitating the Kremlin either as part of a covert espionage scheme or as an unwilling accomplice.
The New York Times reported two weeks ago that Israeli intelligence had hacked into the Kaspersky network and upon detecting the Russian intrusion, alerted the United States, which led to the decision to remove Kaspersky software from US government computers.
The online news site CyberScoop, citing anonymous sources, reported separately that Kaspersky as early as 2015 sought to promote its anti-virus software as a tool to track extremists in the Middle East.
The report said that some US officials were intrigued by the offer, but that technical members of the intelligence community interpreted this as meaning that Kaspersky’s anti-virus software could be used as a spying tool.
The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that the Russian government was able to modify Kaspersky software to turn it into an espionage tool.
The allegations concerning Kaspersky come in the wake of an alleged Russian-led effort to manipulate social media and influence the 2016 US presidential election.


Google looking to future after 20 years of search

Updated 24 September 2018
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Google looking to future after 20 years of search

  • Google was launched in September 1998 in a garage rented in the Northern California city of Menlo Park
  • The name is a play on the mathematical term ‘googol,’ which refers to the number 1 followed by 100 zeros

SAN FRANCISCO: Google celebrated its 20th birthday Monday, marking two decades in which it has grown from simply a better way to explore the Internet to a search engine so woven into daily life its name has become a verb.
The company was set to mark its 20th anniversary with an event in San Francisco devoted to the future of online search, promising a few surprise announcements.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin were students at Stanford University — known for its location near Silicon Valley — when they came up with a way to efficiently index and search the Internet.
The duo went beyond simply counting the number of times keywords were used, developing software that took into account factors such as relationships between webpages to help determine where they should rank in search results.
Google was launched in September 1998 in a garage rented in the Northern California city of Menlo Park. The name is a play on the mathematical term “googol,” which refers to the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.
Google reportedly ran for a while on computer servers at Stanford, where a version of the search had been tested.
And Silicon Valley legend has it that Brin and Page offered to sell the company early on for a million dollars or so, but no deal came together.
Google later moved its headquarters to Mountain View, where it remains.
In August 2004, Google went public on the stock market with shares priced at $85. Shares in the multi-billion-dollar company are now trading above $1,000.
Its early code of conduct included a now-legendary “don’t be evil” clause. Its stated mission is to make the world’s information available to anyone.
The company hit a revenue mother lode with tools that target online ads based on what users reveal and let marketers pay only if people clicked on links in advertising.
It has now launched an array of offerings including Maps, Gmail, the Chrome Internet browser, and an Android mobile device operating system that is free to smartphone or tablet makers.
Google also makes premium Pixel smartphones to showcase Android, which dominates the market with handsets made by an array of manufacturers.
Meanwhile, it bought the 18-month-old YouTube video sharing platform in 2006 in a deal valued at $1.65 billion — which seemed astronomical at the time but has proven shrewd as entertainment moved online.
The company also began pumping money into an X Lab devoted to technology “moon shots” such as Internet-linked glasses, self-driving cars, and using high-altitude balloons to provide Internet service in remote locations.
Some of those have evolved into companies, such as the Waymo self-driving car unit. But Google has also seen failures, such as much-maligned Google Glass eyewear.
Elsewhere, the Google+ social network launched to compete with Facebook has seen little meaningful traction.
In October 2015, corporate restructuring saw the creation of parent company Alphabet, making subsidiaries of Google, Waymo, health sciences unit Verily and other properties.
Google is also now a major player in artificial intelligence, its digital assistant infused into smart speakers and more. Its AI rivals include Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.
Despite efforts to diversify its business, Alphabet — which has over 80,000 employees worldwide — still makes most of its money from online ads. Industry tracker eMarketer forecast that Google and Facebook together will capture 57.7 percent US digital ad revenue this year.
In the second quarter of 2018, Google reported profit of $3.2 billion despite a fine of $5.1 billion imposed by the European Union.
Google’s rise put it in the crosshairs of regulators, especially in Europe, due to concerns it may be abusing its domination of online search and advertising as well as smartphone operating software.
There have been worries that Alphabet is more interested in making money from people’s data than it is in safeguarding their privacy.
Google has also been accused of siphoning money and readers away from mainstream news organizations by providing stories in online search results, where it can cash in on ads.
It is among the tech companies being called upon to better guard against the spread of misinformation — and has also been a target of US President Donald Trump, who added his voice to a chorus of Republicans who contend conservative viewpoints are downplayed in search results.