Politics intrude as cybersecurity firms hunt foreign spies

Reuters reports: The $71 billion cybersecurity industry is fragmenting along geopolitical lines as firms chase after government contracts, share information with spy agencies, and market themselves as protectors against attacks by other nations.

Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has become a leading authority on American computer espionage campaigns, but sources within the company say it has hesitated at least twice before exposing hacking activities attributed to mother Russia.

Meanwhile, U.S. cybersecurity firms CrowdStrike Inc and FireEye Inc (FEYE.O) have won fame by uncovering sophisticated spying by Russia and China – but have yet to point a finger at any American espionage.

The balkanization of the security industry reflects broader rifts in the technology markets that have been exacerbated by disclosures about government-sponsored cyberattacks and surveillance programs, especially those leaked by former U.S. intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden.

“Some companies think we should be stopping all hackers. Others think we should stop only the other guy’s hackers – they think we can win the war,” said Dan Kaminsky, chief scientist at security firm White Ops Inc, putting himself in the former camp.

Kaspersky Lab has faced questions about its connections to Russian intelligence before: Chief Executive Eugene Kaspersky had attended a KGB school, Chief Operating Officer Andrey Tikhonov was a lieutenant colonel in the military, and Chief Legal Officer Igor Chekunov had served in the KGB’s border service.

Eugene Kaspersky said the firm has never been asked by a government agency to back away from investigating a cyberattack, and said that its international team of researchers would not be swayed by any one country’s national interests.

Still, several current and former Kaspersky Lab employees said the firm has dithered over whether to publish research on at least two Russian hacking strikes.

Last year, Kaspersky Lab officials privately gave some paying customers a report about a sophisticated computer spying campaign that it had uncovered. But the company did not publish the report more widely until five months after British defense contractor BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L) exposed the campaign, linking it to another suspected Russian government operation and noting that most infected computers were found were in Ukraine. [Continue reading…]

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