The Italian defense minister isn’t going to determine whether criminals or governments get their hands on your data. Kaspersky and his company, Kaspersky Lab, very well might. Between 2009 and 2010, according to Forbes, retail sales of Kaspersky antivirus software increased 177 percent, reaching almost 4.5 million a year—nearly as much as its rivals Symantec and McAfee combined. Worldwide, 50 million people are now members of the Kaspersky Security Network, sending data to the company’s Moscow headquarters every time they download an application to their desktop. Microsoft, Cisco, and Juniper Networks all embed Kaspersky code in their products—effectively giving the company 300 million users. When it comes to keeping computers free from infection, Kaspersky Lab is on its way to becoming an industry leader.Most troublesome of all is his Kremlin backed crusade to get rid of anonymity on the internet, in the interest of "security":
But this still doesn’t fully capture Kaspersky’s influence. Back in 2010, a researcher now working for Kaspersky discovered Stuxnet, the US-Israeli worm that wrecked nearly a thousand Iranian centrifuges and became the world’s first openly acknowledged cyberweapon. In May of this year, Kaspersky’s elite antihackers exposed a second weaponized computer program, which they dubbed Flame. It was subsequently revealed to be another US-Israeli operation aimed at Iran. In other words, Kaspersky Lab isn’t just an antivirus company; it’s also a leader in uncovering cyber-espionage.
Serving at the pinnacle of such an organization would be a remarkably powerful position for any man. But Kaspersky’s rise is particularly notable—and to some, downright troubling—given his KGB-sponsored training, his tenure as a Soviet intelligence officer, his alliance with Vladimir Putin’s regime, and his deep and ongoing relationship with Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB.
What is mentioned is Kaspersky’s vision for the future of Internet security—which by Western standards can seem extreme. It includes requiring strictly monitored digital passports for some online activities and enabling government regulation of social networks to thwart protest movements. “It’s too much freedom there,” Kaspersky says, referring to sites like Facebook. “Freedom is good. But the bad guys—they can abuse this freedom to manipulate public opinion.”
...The Internet grew from a network of researchers to the global nervous system in large part because practically anyone was able to access any part of it from anywhere—no ID needed. And the values of openness, freedom, and anonymity became deeply embedded in net culture and in the very architecture of the network itself. But to Kaspersky, these notions no longer work: By “protecting our right to freedom we actually sacrifice it! We sacrifice the right to safe Internet surfing and to not get infected by some nasty piece of malware at every step.”
The idea of stripping some amount of privacy from the Internet is gaining traction in many sectors, thanks at least in small part to Kaspersky’s lobbying. In Cancun, he was joined onstage by Alexander Ntoko, a top official at the International Telecommunication Union. “Why don’t we have digital IDs as a de facto for everybody?” he asks. “When I’m going to my bank, I’m not going to cover my face.” In other words, why should things be any different online?
The ITU was once a bureaucratic backwater. In recent years, however, the Russian and Chinese governments have been pushing to give the agency a central role in governing the Internet. Instead of the US-dominated nonprofits that currently coordinate domain names and promote technical standards, they want to turn authority over to a gathering of national governments represented by the ITU. It’s a move that one of the Internet’s creators, Vint Cerf, told Congress risks “losing the open and free Internet,” because it would transfer power from geeks to government bureaucrats.