Exclusive: Eugene Kaspersky talks Armenian President’s Award, cooperation plans

Photos by Public Radio of Armenia


Irina Ayvazyan
Siranush Ghazanchyan
Public Radio of Armenia

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of the Kaspersky Lab will be  the 6th recipient of the Armenian President’s annual IT Award. “The news came a surprise to me,” Eugene Kaspsersky says. “I didn’t expect it.  But I can understand the decision.”

Before he receives the Presidential Award on November 17, Mr. Kaspersky talked exclusively to Public Radio of Armenia.

“Unfortunately, issues of cyber security are getting more and more urgent. They are in the spotlight of not only enterprises, companies working on the cyberspace. The topic is addressed during international forums, meetings of the head of state. It’s becoming more and more dangerous to exist in the cyberspace. We all are in the cyberspace. That’s why I understand why I’m being awarded the prize,” he said.

How did he once chose the IT field and decide to create an antivirus? “There were two reasons for it. The first was my curiosity. The second was а coincidence,” Mr. Kaspersky said.  Everything happened in 1989, when I found my computer infected with one of the viruses of the time. I knew about the existence of computer viruses from the press, I was morally ready for the reality  that they exist somewhere. But I was surprised to determine one on my computer. I detected it through an antivirus program that existed at the time. I became interested in how the virus was working. I figured it out and understood its algorithm. I came to the understanding that the file could be cured by ‘scrolling the algorithm back.’ I tried to do it manually and saved the file. Then came a second virus, on my computer. I was handed it on a diskette. This was the beginning.”

“Before 1997 my activity was not very noticeable. It was like a small enterprise specialized in the development of antivirus programs. Then I was working in one of computer companies in Moscow. In 1997 we seceded from it and registered our company. We were cooperating mostly with Russian companies, and some small ones in Europe, the US, Latin America.  To put it short, we were a small company operating mostly on the Russian market with some partners in the West. Our revenues were minimal. It was very difficult to survive. There were no investors in the IT field in Russia at the time. Thus, we had two choices: to win or die.  And we won. We understood that we had to take our product to the western and eastern markets. But unfortunately, no one knew us then. We chose a different route.  We started licensing our technologies out to competitor firms, and reinvesting the revenues in the development of new products and the expansion of our partners’ network. Today we have representations and partners in literally every country. Antarctica could be an exception, but there are users of our programs there. I like looking at the statistics of our updates. Imagine my surprise when I detected users updating their antivirus from Antarctica,” Eugene Kaspersky said.

He added that the activity of the Kaspersky Lab is not restricted to the development of technologies and products. “We are actively working with law-enforcement bodies and help them solve cyber crimes.  We also cooperate with universities, different educational establishments. We have a huge experience of computer security and we share it with universities on a non-commercial basis.”

Kaspersky is seen by many as the “thunder” of cybercrime. Have there been attempts to entice him to the opposite site? “I see no reason why I would engage in criminal, illegal activity on the web,” he said.

Eugene Kaspersky has spoken on many occasions about the need to apply “Internet passports.” “I was insisting on the idea of providing Internet access only through Internet Passports some 10-15 years ago, but I have changed my view ever since. Today my concept of the correct use of the web is as follows:  the whole information on the web should be divided into several zones with different access rights,” he said.

According to him, there should be a private zone, where one can exchange information, messages, etc. with friends, and there must be absolutely no control here. Second, there should be a strongly controlled zone, which will include financial services, government services, on-line voting, etc. A third zone should be something in the middle, where one will have to provide only partial information.

Kaspersky added that for exact identification of an individual there should be biological checking systems – fingerprints, eye retina. He added, however, that 3D printers are capable of completely changing the biometrical identification. “I’m afraid they will simply destroy criminalistics. It’s going to be a different world, were it will be possible to copy absolutely everything.”

Will progress destroy the mankind? Which is the red line that we should not cross?  “This is something that frightens me. I don’t exclude that the humanity will soon reach a level of development, where a new toy in a man’s hands will turn deadly dangerous. I don’t mean only weapons. This can be biology, mutation of genes, I don’t know what else.” He said there can be different scenarios of evolution, with one of them being the creation of a new bio-technological life. “I hope I won’t live up to that time,” Mr. Kaspersky said.

Speaking about the perspectives of cooperation with Armenia, he said: “We currently have business cooperation with Armenia. We are simultaneously working with the Engineering University in Yerevan. The cooperation will possibly expand in the future. We would like to see more interest in our solutions on the protection of industrial systems. They not only guarantee cyber security for physical entities or companies, but also apply to national security.”

Eugene Kaspersky is paying his third visit to Armenia. “What I dislike this time is that I have absolutely no time to go and see something. Last time it was more interesting.  I visited the Tatev Monastery and swam in Lake Sevan. I was the sole swimmer there in October. I would like to be here in summer to climb the mountains and visit the ancient monasteries. When I visit a new country, I’m interested in two things: history and culture. Both are very interesting in Armenia.”

Is it possible to work out an antivirus program for less powerful computers? “An ideal antivirus is a one that uses zero resources, protects from absolutely all attacks and asks no questions to the user. We are aspiring to reach this ideal. Unfortunately, creating an antivirus that uses no resources is extremely difficult. It is possible to create a program that will protect from all attacks and will work on weak computers, but it will cost more than this old computer itself.”

What changed in Eugene Kaspersky’s life the day he became famous? “Yes, people know me, but the fame has not come in one day. It has been a result of hard work. Besides, I try not to show up on TV, I prefer Internet and radio. That’s why people rarely recognize me on the streets. I can freely go shopping, walk in the airport. People passing by know me, but don’t recognize me, and I’m happy about this.”

To conclude with, Eugene Kaspersky advised all who want to become good programmers to study mathematics.

The Armenian President’s IT Awardis is handed annually to renowned persons for global contribution in the field of information technologies.

The President’s IT prize has previously been awarded to Mario Mazzola, Chief Development Officer at Cisco Systems Corporation, the former Executive Director  General of Intel Corporation, Chairman of the Board Craig R. Barrett, co-founder of the Apple Computer Corporation Steve Wozniak, Chairman Emeritus of Synaptics Company Federico Faggin and former CEO of Hitachi Company Tsugio Makimoto.

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