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Kaspersky Lab cites growing cyber threats

Eugene Kaspersky is the founder of Kaspersky Lab.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Eugene Kaspersky’s business has grown by double-digits and shows no sign of slowing. He jets from European capitals to the Middle East to conferences in Cancun, Mexico. And he can rent a Ferrari whenever he wishes, a perk of sponsoring a Formula One race team.

Cyber crime has been good to the former Soviet cryptographer.

Aside from the criminals themselves, few have benefited from the rise in cyber threats as much as Kaspersky and the Moscow-based Internet security company he founded, Kaspersky Lab, which has its US headquarters in Woburn. Kaspersky was in Boston Monday to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary in the United States, a market that he still sees as untapped as more industries and products — televisions, refrigerators, and smartphones — become interconnected through the Internet.


In other words, he said, the Internet of Things will become the Internet of Threats.

Most companies and countries are “scared, aware, but not sure what to do,” about attacks launched by both garden-variety criminals and professional saboteurs, Kaspersky said Monday during an interview at The Boston Globe.

Countries have not developed strategies to address the attacks or protocols for sharing information about cyber attacks across borders, which could help prevent them, he said. Many industries, particularly health care, are bound by tight privacy regulations that make updating the security of their systems a challenge.

And many companies do not hire enough information technology engineers to block unauthorized applications from getting loaded onto workplace computers and ensure employees do not mistakenly open e-mails that contain viruses.

Kaspersky, 49, launched his business in the late 1990s after leaving the military service of the former Soviet Union. When he first started talking about Internet security, most industries did not see it as a priority, Kaspersky said.

Now, he is sought by international law enforcement agencies, such as Interpol. He serves on panels with former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. When companies, including large banks, start noticing breaches, they call on Kaspersky’s company to investigate.


Kaspersky Lab’s clients now number 270,000 companies around the world.

“We’re everywhere except Antarctica, Iran, and North Korea,” he said.

Kaspersky’s schedule is now so tightly packed that a personal blog he publishes reads more like a travelogue than a business sounding board. Sprinkled between posts about encryption legislation and meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel are notes on the interesting Guatemalan hotel that doubles as a museum and helicopter rides over Norwegian fjords.

Cyber crime has become a growing concern as major retailers, financial institutions, and health care companies report computer attacks that compromise consumer information. These attacks cannot be stopped, Kaspersky said, but organizations can increase their security to make it more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive for criminals to infiltrate.

“You want to make the hack more expensive than the possible damage,” he said.

Kaspersky Lab has made its name by exposing some of the most prominent hacks in recent years. The company was among the first in 2010 to identify the Stuxnet worm, which was linked to the US government’s attempts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. Earlier this year, the company revealed the US government has embedded surveillance tools in the computer networks of countries closely monitored by US intelligence services.

Separately, the security company reported that cyber criminals attacked banks in Russia and around the world, remotely took over ATM machines, and transferred money between accounts, stealing $1 billion.


Kaspersky said the company discloses information about these hacks, even when they are state-sponsored, to ensure that users know their vulnerabilities.

If governments are exploiting these weaknesses, criminals will not be far behind, he said.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.