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Interview

War on cybercrime demands global campaign: Kaspersky CEO

Russian security expert warns of Chinese-speaking hackers' attacks on Japan

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab, said the number of new computer viruses detected has increased over 20% since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.   © Reuters

MOSCOW -- International cooperation is crucial to fighting hackers, Kaspersky CEO Eugene Kaspersky told Nikkei in a recent interview, at a time when Chinese cybercriminals are more actively targeting Japan.

The Moscow-based company offers antivirus software and other information security products. It detects an average of 360,000 new malicious applications a day, up 20% to 25% since the coronavirus began spreading worldwide in the spring of 2020, the CEO said.

Many attacks are carried out by Russia-linked hacker rings like DarkSide, which staged ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline in the U.S. as well as Toshiba this year.

The groups include not only Russians, but also Russian-speaking hackers from places like Kazakhstan or the Baltic countries, said Kaspersky, who described the outfits as among the most professional in the field.

Russia-linked hackers are highly skilled, thanks to a focus on math and science education in the region going back to the Soviet era, according to Kaspersky.

The Putin administration was likely not involved in the Colonial Pipeline hack of May, Kaspersky said.

Global leaders have raised alarms over the growing threat of cybercrime. A communique from this past weekend's Group of Seven summit urges Russia to "hold to account those within its borders who conduct ransomware attacks, abuse virtual currency to launder ransoms, and other cybercrimes."

But Kaspersky noted all of the victims are outside Russia, saying that the fight against cybercrime has no future without international cooperation, such as through sharing information regarding ongoing investigations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last September called for cooperation with the U.S. on digital security, though Washington blames his administration for cyberattacks on American government agencies.

Still, Kaspersky said he would not rule out some sort of cybersecurity agreement at Wednesday's U.S.-Russia summit.

He also warned of growing threats faced by Japan. Japanese cyberspace used to be less vulnerable to attack, thanks to the language barrier and market-specific software, but it now faces a threat level similar to other countries, he said.

Kaspersky pointed to attacks from Chinese-speaking hacker rings, which often use bots to infect and remotely control target machines.

Hackers have traditionally targeted information systems at offices but are now just half a step away from being able to directly target industrial infrastructure like logistics chains, energy grids and water supplies, Kaspersky warned.

There are hundreds of thousands of hackers around the world, and they are exchanging know-how and becoming a greater threat, he said.

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