Russian Antivirus Firm Duped Rivals With Fake Malware

Former employees of one of the world’s largest security companies are claiming the firm purposely triggered its antivirus software to misidentify malicious files as a way to damage its competitors in the marketplace.

The secret campaign was allegedly carried out by Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab over the last 10 years in an effort to target Microsoft, AVG Technologies NV, Avast Software and other rivals, tricking many into deleting or halting files on customers’ PCs, Reuters reported late last week.

According to the ex-employees, these tactics were often carried out under the direction of Kaspersky Lab’s co-founder, Eugene Kaspersky, who wanted to act against opponents he felt were copying the company’s software instead of creating their own.

“Eugene considered this stealing,” one of the former employees told Reuters.

Not surprisingly, the company is adamantly denying any wrongdoing.

“Our company has never conducted any secret campaign to trick competitors into generating false positives to damage their market standing,” Kaspersky said in a statement to Reuters. “Such actions are unethical, dishonest and their legality is at least questionable.”

Kaspersky Lab is a well-known antivirus software manufacturer, with 400 million users and 270,000 corporate clients. According to Reuters, the Russian company has earned much respect throughout the industry for its research on sophisticated spying programs and the computer worm that attacked Iran’s nuclear program back in 2009 and 2010.

While Reuters confirmed Microsoft, AVG and Avast all previously stated unknown parties had attempted to prompt false positives in recent years, none of the companies chose to provide a comment on the allegation that Kaspersky Lab was behind the malicious actions.

The former employees confirmed that the goal of these subtle attacks was to build market share, which was a key part of the selection process when it came to identifying which competitors were targeted.

“It was decided to provide some problems” for competitors, an ex-employee added. “It is not only damaging for a competing company but also damaging for users’ computers.”

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