The Russians

Eugene Kaspersky Is Not Happy With That Wired Profile

The plot thickens!
 Eugene Kaspersky Is Not Happy With That <em>Wired</em> Profile

Displeased. (Photo: flickr.com/cebitaus

Yesterday, we pointed out Wired‘s extensive profile of Eugene Kaspersky, the larger-than-life CEO of Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky Labs–a.k.a., one of the world’s largest computer security firms and the folks on the front lines of the Flame and Stuxnet cyberattacks. (The firm proved they were connected.)

We found the piece’s title–“Russia’s Top Cyber Sleuth Foils US Spies, Helps Kremlin Pals”–apt, as it goes into great detail about Mr. Kaspersky’s company’s role as “unofficial geek squad” to Russia’s Federal Security Service or FSB–better known as the successor to the KGB. His background as an intelligence officer in the Soviet Army is also explored.

Well, it appears that the colorful billionaire is, shall we say, not a happy camper.

Today Mr. Kaspersky issued a lengthy response on his own blog. Unsurprisingly, he rather vehemently denies the claims that he is tied up with the Kremlin. He points out that it’s normal for antivirus companies to work with the authorities on cybercrime and denies that his firm is anything other than regular old helpful experts, making a comparison to super-heroic archeologist Indiana Jones and his frequent gigs consulting with the U.S. government. (Okay, then.)

Mr. Kaspersky also complains of Wired‘s use of “unsourced comments.” We suspect he may be referring, at least in part, to remarks like that of a “prominent member of Russia’s technology sector” who made ominous mention of “intimate involvement” with the FSB. Clearly, Mr. Kaspersky has never tried to get anyone to talk on the record about conspiracies, much less ones involving the FSB.

He also responds to a contentious quote about social networks and the government regulation thereof that also caught our eye (“It’s too much freedom there…. Freedom is good. But the bad guys—they can abuse this freedom to manipulate public opinion”):

As you all know, I’m an active blogger and engage in plenty of social media. I have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter and LiveJournal. I’m an active supporter of the possibilities social networking brings to open communication and dialogue. I constantly stress that social networks can be used for positive things, and would never wish this medium to be shut down or censored.

He doesn’t refute the original remark directly, though, leaving us even more curious about the original context. Was he merely throwing it out there, just-sayin’ style?

He closes on a note that veers dangerously close to bombastic:

Noah Shachtman wants to believe that I’m a spy and Kremlin team member, and that I use my son as bait… I guess this could only be due to cold-war paranoia. I honestly can’t think what else it could be. The reality however is much more mundane – I’m just a man who’s “here to save the world”.

You know, modest ambitions and all.

Meanwhile, the writer of the Wired piece has issued his own lengthy response to the lengthy response. You can delve into the specifics here, but there’s a hint as to the general gist:

The security mogul doesn’t mention that his firm, Kaspersky Lab, closely cooperated with WIRED’s fact-checking team on nearly every line of the profile. Moreover, the few specific points of contention Kaspersky now raises with the article are flatly contradicted by both his private and public statements.

Interestingly, this isn’t the only recent dust-up between Kaspersky Labs and the press. In May, Computing News reported that CTO Nikolai Grebennikov had told them Kaspersky had been invited by Apple to consult on security holes in OS X. However, the firm quickly denied the report.

Frankly, all this Kremlinology is giving us a headache.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com