Founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky studied cryptography, programming and mathematics at an academy operated by the KGB, the FSB’s Soviet-era predecessor, then worked for the Ministry of Defense.
Since he established the firm in Russia 20 years ago, Kaspersky has grown to serve more than 400 million users worldwide, according to its website, and is the largest software vendor in Europe.
The documents reviewed by Mc Clatchy, however, could provide additional evidence that the clandestine FSB has a tight relationship with Kaspersky.
In a statement to Mc Clatchy, the company did not directly address the reference to an FSB military unit number in several of its certificates dating to 2007.
“As a private company, Kaspersky Lab has no ties to any government, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyber espionage efforts,” Eugene Kaspersky said in May during an “Ask Me Anything” session on the Web site Reddit.
Indeed, many cyber experts, including those with federal government backgrounds, have praised the quality of Kaspersky software.
The documents are certifications issued to the company by the Russian Security Service, the spy agency known as the FSB.
Unlike the stamped approvals the FSB routinely issues to companies seeking to operate in Russia, Kaspersky’s include an unusual feature: a military intelligence unit number matching that of an FSB program.
There’s no doubt in my mind it could be, if it’s not already, under the control of Putin.” Kaspersky has rejected any notion that it might be an intelligence front, citing its years of delivering quality products.
“That strikes me as much more persuasive public evidence,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former deputy secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.
“It makes it far more likely that much of the rumor and uncertainty about Kaspersky are true.” For years, suspicions that Kaspersky is connected to Russia’s spying apparatus have dogged the company, a leading global seller of anti-virus programs.
“No one should be surprised if there are closer relationships between IT vendors and law enforcement, worldwide, than the public imagines,” Geers said. It’s certainly possible, Geers said, that Kaspersky’s software contains a secret “backdoor” to allow Russian special services access for law enforcement and counterintelligence purposes.
Case in point: Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that American telecommunications companies shared vast amounts of personal data with the ultra-secret U. “If such a secret backdoor exists, I would not be shocked,” Geers said.