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The Company Securing Your Internet Has Close Ties to Russian Spies

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(Bloomberg) – Kaspersky Lab sells security software, including antivirus programs recommended by big-box stores and other U.S. PC retailers. The Moscow-based company ranks sixth in revenue among security-software makers, taking in $667 million in 2013, and is a favorite among Best Buy’s Geek Squad technicians and reviewers on Amazon.com. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Eugene Kaspersky used to work for the KGB, and in 2007, one of the company’s Japanese ad campaigns used the slogan “A Specialist in Cryptography from KGB.” The sales tactic, a local partner’s idea, was “quickly removed by headquarters,” according to Kaspersky Lab, as the company recruited senior managers in the U.S. and Europe to expand its business and readied an initial public offering with a U.S. investment firm.

In 2012, however, Kaspersky Lab abruptly changed course. Since then, high-level managers have left or been fired, their jobs often filled by people with closer ties to Russia’s military or intelligence services. Some of these people actively aid criminal investigations by the FSB, the KGB’s successor, using data from some of the 400 million customers who rely on Kaspersky Lab’s software, say six current and former employees who declined to discuss the matter publicly because they feared reprisals. This closeness starts at the top: Unless Kaspersky is traveling, he rarely misses a weekly banya (sauna) night with a group of about 5 to 10 that usually includes Russian intelligence officials. Kaspersky says in an interview that the group saunas are purely social: “When I go to banya, they’re friends.”

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