Russia’s Kaspersky threatened to ‘rub out’ rival, email shows

Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab, listens to a question during an interview in New York March 10, 2015.

(By Joseph Menn, Reuters) – In 2009, Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder of one of the world’s top security companies, told some of his lieutenants that they should attack rival antivirus software maker AVG Technologies by “rubbing them out in the outhouse,” one of several previously undisclosed emails shows.

He was quoting from Vladimir Putin’s famous threat a decade earlier to pursue Chechen rebels wherever they were: “If we catch them in the toilet, then we will rub them out in the outhouse.”

Former employees say that the reprisal Kaspersky was pushing for was to trick AVG’s antivirus software into producing false positives – that is, misclassifying clean computer files as infected.

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As previously reported by Reuters, the plan involved creating fake virus samples and malware identifications to fool competitors into disabling or deleting important files, thereby creating problems for their customers.

“More and more I get the desire to smack them with their falses,” Kaspersky wrote in Russian in one email seen by Reuters, dated July 23, 2009. He accused AVG of poaching staff from his company. “AVG is carrying out an HR attack on the company, mostly the managers.”

The emails shed fresh light on the allegations of two former Kaspersky Lab employees that the Moscow-based company had sought to sabotage rivals to gain market share and retaliate against competitors it believed were mimicking its malware detections instead of relying on their own research.

Kaspersky Lab has strongly denied the allegations. On Friday, it said the emails “may not be legitimate and were obtained from anonymous sources that have a hidden agenda.”

“Kaspersky Lab has never conducted any secret campaign to trick competitors into generating false positives to damage their market standing. Such actions are unethical, dishonest and illegal,” the company said in a statement.

The ex-employees told Reuters that AVG, Microsoft  and Avast Software were among the companies targeted by Kaspersky Lab in campaigns between 2009 and 2013 to spread false positives through threat information-sharing programs.

“To be honest, I’ll feel pretty bad when AVG goes public and earns a billion. They won’t say thanks to you or me – don’t even hope,” Kaspersky wrote in another email seen by Reuters, dated Oct. 8, 2009.

“‘Rubbing out’ – is one of the methods, which we will DEFINITELY use in combination with other methods.”

A day earlier, Kaspersky had urged his team in another email to consider “rubbing them out in the outhouse,” noting that his European chief was “very positive about falses.” The emails do not confirm that an attack was launched against AVG or say how effective it might have been.

AVG’s former chief technology officer, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, previously told Reuters the company was hit with waves of doctored virus samples from 2009 to 2013.

AVG, Microsoft and Avast have all declined comment on who might have been behind the sophisticated assaults. AVG did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the emails.

China campaign

In the emails, Eugene Kaspersky did not give specifics on the “rubbing out” method that he envisioned using against AVG. But he said it was a trick that the company had used against a competitor in China years ago. He did not identify the company in the email.

“We’ve already had an experience ‘rubbing out’ – in China. In year 2002-2003. And we did end up moving one of then-market leaders,” Kaspersky wrote.

A former Kaspersky Lab employee said the Chinese target was Beijing Jiangmin New Science & Technology Co, one of the biggest antivirus companies in the country at the time. Jiangmin General Manager Guo Changsheng declined to comment.

In 2002, Kaspersky Lab had been struggling to gain traction in the massive Chinese market, where piracy was rampant in the software industry, according to former employees.

Jiangmin did well in part because it copied Kaspersky Lab’s identifications of malicious software files, said two former software engineers at Jiangmin, and a Chinese expert who had worked with both companies. The three sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

After repeated threats and attempts to reach a licensing deal with Jiangmin failed, the Chinese expert said, Kaspersky Lab began to fake some of its malware detections in China in order to cause problems on Jiangmin’s customer machines when the Chinese company copied them.

Kaspersky Lab did this to protect itself from more piracy, the Chinese expert said, adding that the campaign worked. “All of a sudden, customers came to Kaspersky.”

Jiangmin’s general manager declined to comment on the allegations that the company copied Kaspersky Lab’s detections. He also declined to comment on whether Jiangmin had suffered from false detections during the period in question.

Kaspersky Lab has previously said that it too had been hit with fake virus samples. It declined to provide copies of the samples or give other details.

It is not known how much business Kaspersky Lab may have gained in China or elsewhere as a result of these alleged attacks.

In one of the emails, Eugene Kaspersky said the China attack, which he called a “rubber bomb,” was a success. The term “rubber bomb” comes from a Russian joke about an explosive that keeps bouncing and inflicting more damage.

“Something tells me that without that ‘rubber bomb,’ things wouldn’t be so rosy for us in China,” Kaspersky wrote in the Oct. 8, 2009 email.

(Additional reporting by Gerry Shih in Beijing and Alina Selyukh in Washington; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

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Designing New Mobile Experiences For The Music-Loving Generation

Apple-music As music fans go mobile, music festivals are following suit. The kids in America are rocking out to T-Swift with a Natty Lite in one hand and a mobile phone open to native festival apps in the other. Schedules, venue maps, artists and vendors are all in the palm of partygoers hands. And festivals are even designing other features specifically to engage the throngs of eager event-goers,… Read More

LinkedIn acquires predictive marketing firm Fliptop to boost its Sales Solution offering

Fliptop photo collage

LinkedIn has acquired the predictive sales and marketing firm Fliptop in an effort to boost development on its own Sales Solution offering. The professional social networking company says that the integration of the team and technology will take several months. Financial terms have not been disclosed.

Fliptop was founded in 2010 by Doug Camplejohn and Dan Chiao. Its goal was to provide businesses with applications that would help close more sales through the use of data science and predictive analytics. It had raised $8.5 million in funding from numerous angel investors and venture capitalists Western Technology Investment, Raptor Ventures, Data Collective, and Longworth Venture Partners.

Along the way, Fliptop had made two acquisitions: Qwerly in November 2011 and Inbound Score in April 2013.

David Thacker, LinkedIn’s vice president of product, wrote in a post that Fliptop’s expertise will help it “accelerate our Sales Solutions product roadmap and make Sales Navigator even more effective.” Sales Solution is the company’s business-to-business arm and its main product is Sales Navigator which assists in social selling. By integrating Fliptop’s predictive analytics into the product, customers should be able to better target individuals.

The entire Fliptop team will supposedly relocate from their San Francisco, Calif. office to LinkedIn’s office just down the street.

We’ve reached out to LinkedIn for additional comment and will update this article if we hear back.

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Yep, gameplay video shows Lawbreakers is a CliffyB shooter

Kitsune is an assassin character in Boss Key Production's Lawbreakers.

Nexon showed off the first gameplay video from Cliff Bleszinski’s new first-person shooter game Lawbreakers.

In advance of the PAX Prime game fan event in Seattle, the trailer from Bleszinski’s Boss Key Productions, the developer, and publisher Nexon shows off the different characters that you can play in the title, which debuts in 2016.

Gears of War designer Bleszinski, who formerly went by the handle CliffyB, has grown up, left Epic Games, and started his own game studio. Lawbreakers got its big reveal this week. The first announcement explained the plot. In the future, government experimenters manage to blow up the moon in an event called “The Shattering.” (Here’s a hilarious analysis of that possibility). The result is that Earth’s gravity has been changed, with jumping huge distances becomes possible, as it is in prior shooters games such as Titanfall, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III. You’ll be able to manipulate gravity and shoot while flying. That’s going to take a lot of skill.

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By the time this game comes out in 2016, big jumps are either going to be a requirement of all shooters — or something that gamers are tired of seeing. Add some extra special vitamins, and you have some super soldiers that either uphold the law or break it. That’s probably not going to be an Academy Award-winning screenplay, but it’s as good a premise as any for a lot of shooting. As long as we see some more innovation, the game should have a chance at getting some traction. Lawbreakers will at least be available at the right price, considering it is a free-to-play title with full support from micro-transaction pioneer Nexon.

The world of Lawbreakers is another post-apocalyptic scene, akin to Gears of War. It’s gloomy and gray. But the new video shows that the first playing field — a mutlilevel building on the cliffs of the Grand Canyon — looks like a Call of Duty multiplayer map. Society has recovered, but divided into two factions fighting for control. One side is a peacekeeping group, while another is a crime syndicate bent on breaking the law.

The first character we meet is Kitsune, an assassin, who is armed with twin katanas, a cool electronic grapple rope, and some kind of shotgun. She uses the grapple to latch on to a point, jump off a cliff, and then swing into the battle in the air. She’s a highly mobile melee fighter, but is vulnerable to attacks.

Maverick is a “skirmisher,” who is “what you what you would get if you strapped armor made from an F-15 Fighter Jet onto a Spec Ops soldier.” Maverick uses her jets to take to the sky and move around the battlefield. She can rain down fire from a Vulcan Gatling cannon and drop a pretty big destructive force called Starfall. And she’s got some attitude, saying, “You want some more, asshole?” that is reminiscent of Gears of War and Bleszinski’s Bulletstorm shooter game.

Breacher is a gunner made for “run-and-gun gameplay.” Novice and experience shooter players will like this one, as he carries an assault rifle and a sidearm. He has a nice move, shooting backwards while jumping.

Lastly, Cronos is a Titan, or a tank. He’s a brute with high durability and high damage, but low mobility. He charges in frontal assaults, dealing twice as much damage with his rocket launcher and ricochet grenades as compared to other characters. You have to stay away from him.

These are all pretty familiar characters in a good-looking setting. It’s a CliffyB game, alright. But is it original enough? I don’t know. I have high expectations for Bleszinski, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of that special touch.




U.S. International Trade Commission clears Microsoft of patent infringement

A Microsoft logo is seen on an office building in New York City, July 28, 2015. The global launch of the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system will take place on July 29. REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTX1M661

By Andrew Chung

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp avoided a potentially costly setback to its mobile phone business on Friday as the U.S. International Trade Commission declined to block the import of its devices in a longstanding patent dispute.

The decision rejected a ruling in April by a U.S. trade judge who found that Microsoft had infringed two InterDigital Inc wireless patents, and recommended an import ban.

The commission’s action is good news for Microsoft, which has been struggling to compete with Apple and Samsung devices. The Redmond, Washington-based company has captured just 3 percent of the smartphone market in the United States and globally, according to recent estimates.

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Microsoft last month posted a record quarterly loss as it took a $7.5 billion charge on its handset business, which it bought from Nokia last year.

InterDigital’s Chief Executive Officer William Merritt said in a statement that the decision was disappointing but would have limited impact “given the decline of the Nokia mobile device business under Microsoft’s control and its limited market position.”

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company was “grateful the Commission stopped InterDigital from trying to block our products.”

InterDigital stock was down 3 percent after hours on Friday.

The two companies are at odds over how much InterDigital should be able to charge to license its patents, which are considered essential to cellphone technology.

Wilmington, Delaware-based InterDigital first accused Nokia in 2007 of infringing its technology for optimizing a cellphone’s power to connect to a network.

In April, the U.S. trade judge ruled that Microsoft used InterDigital’s patents, considered standard in the industry, but refused to pay for a license to them. An import ban would have affected any Microsoft phone using 3G cellular technology, including its Lumia smartphones.

After reviewing that ruling, the commission said on Friday that Microsoft did not violate the patents, but it did not address the issue of fair licensing for essential patents.

Earlier this month, Microsoft sued InterDigital in Delaware federal court, claiming InterDigital violated U.S. antitrust law by breaking promises to offer licenses on reasonable terms.

Companies frequently sue both at the ITC, which has the authority to block the import of products that infringe a U.S. patent, and in district court to win monetary damages.

The case at the ITC is No. 337-613.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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