[Owasp-Malaysia] Eugene Kaspersky (a TXT story copy pasted from PDF)

Muhammad Najmi Ahmad Zabidi najmi.zabidi at gmail.com
Sun Oct 24 21:55:44 EDT 2010


Eugene Kaspersky


Eleanor Dallaway talks to Eugene Kaspersky
about how his one-man band turned into an
international AV powerhouse
Sitting across from Eugene Kaspersky at
the 2010 Kaspersky international press
tour, held in Moscow, I feel completely at
ease. Despite having suffered several back-
to-back interviews with prying journalists,
Eugene is relaxed and friendly.
Knowing that I'd get my fix of
company and product news throughout
the press tour, I asked Eugene to tell me
his story. I was hungry to learn about his
childhood, and learn of his journey from
mathematician to founder and CEO of his
multi-million company, Kaspersky.
"I was born many, many years ago in
1965", Eugene laughs. His laugh is infectious,
and it's clear that he does not use it sparingly.
Schooled in the Moscow region, Eugene's
talent for mathematics became glaringly
obvious very quickly.
By the age of 12, Eugene Kaspersky
was studying advanced mathematics at
an evening school for children. Attending a
mathematical boarding school in Moscow in
his teens, Eugene took a particular interest
in the school's computer. "Well, I suppose
it was just a digital machine", he smiles. He
spent his last two years of secondary school
taking physics and mathematics courses in
a specialised programme for gifted students
organised by and affiliated with Moscow
State University.
Despite his obvious intelligence, Eugene
remains modest about his potential. "I wasn't
clever enough to become a cryptologist.
Cryptology is such a science that very few
are able to do it successfully without losing
their minds". So, how did Eugene's talent as
a mathematician lead to him founding an
incredibly successful information security
company? "If you're a mathematician you
can easily be a computer engineer", Eugene
explains, "but if you're computer engineer, you'll
never be a mathematician. I did it the right way
around - it was very good training for my brain".
The first product
In 1987, Eugene graduated from the Institute
of Cryptography, Telecommunications
and Computer Science, where he studied
mathematics, cryptography and computer
technology, majoring in mathematical
engineering.
After graduating, Eugene worked at a multi-
disciplinary research institute. It was there
that Eugene first began studying computer
viruses after detecting the Cascade virus on his
computer in October 1989. Eugene analysed
the virus and developed a disinfection utility for
it - the first such utility he developed.
In the early 1990s, Eugene embarked
on the AVP anti-virus project. "The name of
the first version of my software was called
minus V [written -V]. The reason for this?
I wanted it to appear first in product lists",
laughs the Kaspersky CEO.
Researching viruses
was my hobby -
[it was never] up
for sale
The story about the naming of the project
gets better, Eugene explains. "We called the
innovative anti-virus software the anti-viral
toolkit pro - ATP. When a friend of mine from
Bulgaria asked me to send the software
for tests, I made the mistake of calling the
product AVP when packing the file. Later,
this man sent me a message saying that the
AVP package is becoming popular because
it's good software. I told him that it was a
mistake and that its actual name is ATP and
he said 'too late - it's known as AVP'.
"By 1992 I had recruited more people to
help with the software development, and we had
a very innovative anti-virus for that time." Two
years later, tests at Hamburg University declared
Eugene Kaspersky's AVP product 'best in list'.
The product grew through international
distribution, and received much interest
from German companies. "There was no
money, but we were happy that our product
was being promoted. At that point, we were
probably a team of four or five, with no
resources to control our distribution, finance
or sales results".
Stabbed in the back
Eugene Kaspersky learnt the hard way
about the dog-eat-dog world of business.
An American man registered AVP as a
trademark under his own name, and started
to behave as a software vendor. "He owned
the trademark, so he owned the software",
Kaspersky says regretfully. "We had to
change everything, and started again".
Eugene Kaspersky registered 'Kaspersky'
as a global trademark, designed the new
logo, and "the new everything. I like to say
I'm working on my second million dollars,
because I gave up the first one", he laughs.
"At the time, the software market was very
small, and we had almost zero sales, but we
used every opportunity for income.
Virus research was always a passion of
Eugene Kaspersky's, who admits that "I was
working not for money, but for fun".
Survival was assured by signed
technology contracts. "The Russian anti-
virus market was not big enough to survive,
so we needed resources to promote the
brand to other markets. In the industry
we were known to have one of the best
engines. We had a lot of innovations and
the quality of detections was respected".
The Russian financial crisis in 1998
taught Eugene to depend on different
currencies. "We used the crisis to improve
the company - we started to recruit more
people because it was cheap. Something
very similar is happening right now - it's
easier to find the right people in a recession".
The Russian market
Successful Russian information security
companies are few and far between. Is it
therefore more of a challenge to set up an
information security company in Russia?
"Yes and no", answers Eugene.
"Yes because the Silicon Valley is a better
environment with a lot of investors. No
because there is a very good pool of talented
engineers in Russia".
In fact, most of Kaspersky's engineers
are based in Russia. "When it comes to
marketing and sales, however, it is harder to
find the right people here in Russia, because
technical education has a stronger history
in Russia. In soviet times there was no
marketing or business education, which is
why we are the first generation.
Unlike many entrepreneurs, Eugene
confirms that he never had an exit plan. "I
was interested in researching viruses and
researching malicious codes. It was my
hobby, and when you have a hobby, it is
not up for sale". Interestingly, Eugene was
asked many times over the years to join
other companies or sell his company, but
now the tables have turned. "There was one
company that once wanted to acquire us.
Now they have asked us to acquire them",
he says with a sense of pride.
While Kaspersky has been known to be
active in the acquisitions market (acquiring
an anti-spam project four or five years
ago), Eugene remains cautious. "The most
dangerous risk when you buy a company
is that you buy a team of people. For big
companies this doesn't matter - they call
it 'Symantec style' - because there is no
culture, just a bureaucratic machine."
Eugene, however, is intent on keeping the
Kaspersky corporate culture, which seems
to be respected so much by his employees.
"That's why we are so conservative with
acquisitions. We want to keep the special
spirit of the team of the company".
No regrets
In hindsight, Eugene Kaspersky looks fondly
upon his journey to where he is now. And so
he should.
My time with Eugene is up, but not
before I get to ask him one last question. The
biggest mistake of his career? "A technical
mistake", he says without hesitation. "The AV
engine in '96 wasn't able to process two files
at the same time. This was the most serious,
critical mistake of my career. If I could live
my life again, that is the one thing I would
change, but not the rest." And why should
he?
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