Eugene Kaspersky, the founder and chief executive of the world-famous cybersecurity firm that also bears his surname, has said that when it comes to state-sponsored hacking, espionage and propaganda, no country should be presumed innocent.
Since the alleged cyber-sabotage operation last year against victims including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, which many claim to be linked to the Russian government, news of state-backed hacking has firmly hit the mainstream.
Many headlines went straight for the term 'election hacking'. However, according to Kaspersky, it is misinformation and propaganda that are more likely shape the outcome of any future cyber-war.
"The reality is that everyone hacks everyone," he told IBTimes UK.
"I agree with the Americans that elections are critical infrastructure because the future of the country depends on that," he added. "Of course they don't want someone else to manipulate their future, as we in Russia don't want someone else to manipulate our future."
So what does the term "election hacking" mean to Kaspersky, if anything?
"There are several aspects," he explained. "First, what happened with the Democratic Party, stealing the information and releasing the information, I don't think it really damaged the reputation of the party, maybe it influenced the election outcome, but just a little.
"The second thing is the information war, the propaganda, which is not really new, but now it's in cyberspace and in cyberspace it's much easier to manipulate someone's opinion. It's easier to stay in the shadows, anonymous. It's much cheaper.
"Third, attacks on the computer systems which collect the votes. I don't know if it's possible in the UK because I don't know how it's designed, but in Russia they are partly going back to paper for remote voting - they don't trust cyber anymore."
According to Kaspersky, who spoke to IBTimes UK on 28 April at The Savoy, London, it's not only governments that are shaped by the notion that democracy is increasingly moulded by the online world – but also voters. "The new generation, they don't want to vote offline," Kaspersky said.
The Kaspersky Lab chief executive indicated that with the rise of smartphones and web-connected devices, the default expectation is now that an online option should always exist – even in the voting booth. While this is expected, he stressed than digital voting is not the answer, at least not yet.
"If you don't have 100% secure online voting it will be the end of democracy," he warned.
Over the years, Kaspersky Lab has been on the frontlines of both cybercrime and anti-virus protection, now boasting over 400 million global users. It also regularly releases technical analysis on both cybercrime groups and state-sponsored hacking teams.
Yet despite this breadth of expertise, its founder said attribution in cyberspace remains "very tricky."
"The most spoken languages in espionage are native English, native Russian, and simplified Chinese, he explained. "We don't have the data to investigate [the biggest groups]. If they are stupid then we can, if they leave fingerprints. For professional gangs it's very hard."
In any case, his teams routinely work with law enforcement around the world to takedown cybercrime groups, one of the most famous of which was the "Lurk" gang which targeted banks. Sometimes, in the face of the odds, Kaspersky said some research still piques his experts' interest.
"When we did the research on the Bangladesh Central Bank one of my best experts spent three months to prove it was not North Korea and as a result he proved it was North Korea," he laughed. "It's not 100% proof, but there are many little fingerprints which were not completely erased."
While the sheer amount of online threats has never been greater, the cybersecurity pioneer said he believes that many humans are still a bigger problem than the devices they use.
"How many incidents are caused by the human factor?" he asked rhetorically. "Homo-sapiens are much more dangerous than computers."
Read the full IBTimes UK interview with Eugene Kaspersky.
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