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
0

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.


Instagram unveils new video service in challenge to YouTube

Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram said he hopes IGTV will emerge as a hub of creativity for relative unknowns. (AP)
Updated 20 June 2018
0

Instagram unveils new video service in challenge to YouTube

  • Video will be available through Instagram or a new app called IGTV
  • Before, Facebook and Instagram have copied Snapchat — another magnet for teens and young adults

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook’s Instagram service is loosening its restraints on video in an attempt to lure younger viewers away from YouTube when they’re looking for something to watch on their smartphones.
The expansion announced Wednesday, dubbed IGTV, will increase Instagram’s video time limit from one minute to 10 minutes for most users. Accounts with large audiences will be able to go as long as an hour.
Video will be available through Instagram or a new app called IGTV. The video will eventually give Facebook more opportunities to sell advertising.
It’s the latest instance in which Instagram has ripped a page from a rival’s playbook in an effort to preserve its status as a cool place for young people to share and view content. In this case, Instagram is mimicking Google’s YouTube. Before, Facebook and Instagram have copied Snapchat — another magnet for teens and young adults.
Instagram, now nearly 8 years old, is moving further from its roots as a photo-sharing service as it dives headlong into longer-form video.
The initiative comes as parent company Facebook struggles to attract teens, while also dealing with a scandal that exposed its leaky controls for protecting users’ personal information.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told The Associated Press that he hopes IGTV will emerge as a hub of creativity for relative unknowns who turn into Internet sensations with fervent followings among teens and young adults.
That is what’s already happening on YouTube, which has become the world’s most popular video outlet since Google bought it for $1.76 billion nearly 12 years ago. YouTube now boasts 1.8 billion users.
Instagram, which Facebook bought for $1 billion six years ago, now has 1 billion users, up from 800 million nine months ago.
More importantly, 72 percent of US kids ranging from 13 to 17 years old use Instagram, second to YouTube at 85 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Only 51 percent of people in that group now use Facebook, down from 71 percent from a similar Pew survey in 2014-15.
That trend appears to be one of the reasons that Facebook is “hedging its bets” by opening Instagram to the longer-form videos typically found on YouTube, said analyst Paul Verna of the research firm eMarketer.
Besides giving Instagram another potential drawing card, longer clips are more conducive for video ads lasting from 30 seconds to one minute. Instagram doesn’t currently allow video ads, but Systrom said it eventually will. When the ads come, Instagram intends to share revenue with the videos’ creators — just as YouTube already does.
“We want to make sure they make a living because that is the only way it works in the long run,” Systrom said.
The ads also will help Facebook sustain its revenue growth. Total spending on online video ads in the US is expected to rise from nearly $18 billion this year to $27 billion in 2021, according to eMarketer.
Lele Pons, a YouTube sensation who also has amassed 25 million followers on Instagram, plans to launch a new cooking show on IGTV in hopes of increasing her audience and eventually generating more revenue. “It’s like Coca-Cola and Pepsi,” she said. “You will never know what you like better unless you try both.”
IGTV’s programming format will consist exclusively of vertical video designed to fill the entire screen of smartphones — the devices that are emerging as the main way younger people watch video. By contrast, most YouTube videos fill only a portion of the screen unless the phone is tilted horizontally.
Snapchat began featuring vertical video before Instagram, another example of its penchant for copying rivals.
But Systrom sees it differently. “This is acknowledging vertical video is the future and we want the future to come more quickly, so we built IGTV.”