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Exclusive: Russia's Kaspersky threatened to 'rub out' rival, email shows

In 2009, Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder of one of the world's top security companies, told some of his lieutenants that they should attack rival antivirus software maker AVG Technologies N.V. (AVG.N) by "rubbing them out in the outhouse," one of several previously undisclosed emails shows.

He was quoting from Vladimir Putin's famous threat a decade earlier to pursue Chechen rebels wherever they were: "If we catch them in the toilet, then we will rub them out in the outhouse."

Former employees say that the reprisal Kaspersky was pushing for was to trick AVG's antivirus software into producing false positives - that is, misclassifying clean computer files as infected.

As previously reported by Reuters, the plan involved creating fake virus samples and malware identifications to fool competitors into disabling or deleting important files, thereby creating problems for their customers.

"More and more I get the desire to smack them with their falses," Kaspersky wrote in Russian in one email seen by Reuters, dated July 23, 2009. He accused AVG of poaching staff from his company. "AVG is carrying out an HR attack on the company, mostly the managers."

The emails shed fresh light on the allegations of two former Kaspersky Lab employees that the Moscow-based company had sought to sabotage rivals to gain market share and retaliate against competitors it believed were mimicking its malware detections instead of relying on their own research.

Kaspersky Lab has strongly denied the allegations. On Friday, it said the emails "may not be legitimate and were obtained from anonymous sources that have a hidden agenda."

"Kaspersky Lab has never conducted any secret campaign to trick competitors into generating false positives to damage their market standing. Such actions are unethical, dishonest and illegal," the company said in a statement.

The ex-employees told Reuters that AVG, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Avast Software were among the companies targeted by Kaspersky Lab in campaigns between 2009 and 2013 to spread false positives through threat information-sharing programs.

"To be honest, I'll feel pretty bad when AVG goes public and earns a billion. They won't say thanks to you or me – don't even hope," Kaspersky wrote in another email seen by Reuters, dated Oct. 8, 2009.

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