Kaspersky accused of sabotage to harm competitors

Pierluigi Paganini August 15, 2015

According to two former employees the Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky has faked malware to harm competitors and cause false positive in their solutions.

Two former employees, who requested anonymity, revealed that Kaspersky Lab tried to trick antivirus solutions of its competitors into flagging more false positives.

Two anonymous former Kaspersky Lab employees told Reuters that disconcerting story related to the popular Russian security firm. According to the employees the antivirus solutions of Kaspersky’s competitors were flagging benign files as malware, disabling or deleting important documents of their customers.

Critical Infrastructure KAspersky Cyber Security Summint 2014

Among the targeted security firms, according to the two former employees, there are AVG Technologies, Avast Software, and Microsoft.

Kaspersky Lab denied the claims.

“Our company has never conducted any secret campaign to trick competitors into generating false positives to damage their market standing. Such actions are unethical, dishonest and their legality is at least questionable.” is the official reply of Kaspersky Lab.

According to the sources, the attacks were ordered by Eugene Kaspersky in person, to retaliate against smaller antivirus solutions that were gaining market share by aping Kaspersky software.

“Eugene considered this stealing,” said one of the former employees. “It was decided to provide some problems” for rivals, “It is not only damaging for a competing company but also damaging for users’ computers.

According to Reuters, executives at major security firms, including Microsoft, AVG and Avast previously reported that unknown parties had tried to induce false positives in recent years, but there is no comment on the recent revelations.

According to the former employees, Kaspersky dedicated a team to the sabotage operations that reverse-engineered antivirus solutions of the competitors in order to deceive them.

The employees said Kaspersky Lab manipulated files in order to cause false positives in competitors’ antivirus solution for more than 10 years, with the peak period between 2009 and 2013.

How to sabotage the rivals?

One of the techniques adopted by Kaspersky consists in the injection of the malicious code in an important piece of software commonly found in PCs so that the file appears as infected. The Kaspersky engineers that sent the “doctored file” anonymously to the VirusTotal online service.

When rivals’ antivirus systems examined the doctored file it would be flagged as potentially malicious.

Kaspersky denied the unfair practice, telling to the Reuters it had been a victim of a similar attack in November 2012

“when an “unknown third party” manipulated Kaspersky into misclassifying files from Tencent (0700.HK), Mail.ru (MAILRq.L) and the Steam gaming platform as malicious.” states the Reuters.

According to the former employees, Microsoft was targeted by Kaspersky because rival antivirus firms follow it in the malware classification.

Kaspersky confirmed the improvement of its algorithms to defend against false virus samples, regarding the case it believed no antivirus company conducted such kind of attacks “as it would have a very bad effect on the whole industry.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Kaspersky, antivirus)

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