In 1989, Eugene Kaspersky ran afoul of the Cascade virus while working for the Ministry of Defence in the heart of the Soviet Union. He defeated it with his wits and a pencil. Today, the same man is the CEO and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab; a privately owned multimillion dollar computer security company.
We caught up with Kaspersky at the 10th annual Kaspersky Lab International Press Tour in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where Kaspersky Lab experts reported on the latest threats to target business and consumers. We asked Kaspersky about his professional journey over the past 20 years, along with his thoughts on the past, present and future of viruses and security.
PC World: Before we start, congratulations on winning the Russian Federation State Prize for Science and Technology.
EK: Thank you. There were two honours. The first was the prize, the second was President [Dmitry Medvedev] visiting Kasperski Lab one week later. It was very sudden, came out of nowhere. He did more than just visit — he established a new government commission for innovation in technology, and the first session of that new committee was held in our office. So already I cut marketing budget for Russia, because we don't need it anymore [laughs]!
PCW: So why computer viruses? What is it about IT security that first fascinated you?
EK: To begin with, I was simply curious — how does it work? I had heard about computer viruses, and realised one day my computer was infected [by the Cascade virus]. I disinfected the computer with an anti-virus utility. I kept a copy of the infected file on a floppy disc so I could analyse the code. Later I had a second virus and it was completely different to the first. This caused a change in me — I wanted to understand these new technologies, the new ways they were infecting systems and how viruses stayed invisible. Later, I became interested in not just viruses, but the motivation of virus writers and cyber criminals — how to predict and understand the trends in the malware world. I find this very interesting and today this is what drives me.
PCW: Your first experience with a computer virus occurred in Moscow in 1989. What was the technology landscape like in Russia at the time? Presumably not many individuals had computers?
EK: None at all. It was not my computer that was infected — it belonged to the Military Research Centre. There were no computers in Russian homes anywhere. ... Well, the secretaries of the Communist Party, they probably had computers.