Dear Mr. Kaspersky,
Dear Yevgeny Valentinovich,
It is rare that a company and their products remain associated in a positive manner with its founder and Executive over many years. Once there was Peter Norton and his Norton Utilities but that glory passed by over time. Mr. Torvalds was once Mr. Linux and Linux was Linus Torvalds, and although he still is a leading voice in the industry, most of the current users don’t know who he is, so that recognition faded as well. Bill Gates was the front man of Microsoft for a long time and became more associated with the issues than with the successes.
A lasting positive association between company and person is of course Steve Jobs, who is forever associated with Apple as much as Apple will always be associated with Steve Jobs. And the same applies of course to Steve “The WOZ” Wozniak. There are of course more examples of very positive associations between founder and company but there are not that many. You belong to that very rare circle and anyone who looks at the history will acknowledge that it was hard work for you and your team. You and your company, your products, and your services are associated with each other for more than 2 decades now. In the community, you are for 30+ years the personification of fighting cyber crime.
We met twice in the past 2 decades, and although these moments made lasting impressions on me, I assume you won’t remember. The first meeting was late ‘90s at a security conference where you vividly plead for sharing data on computer viruses to speed up discovery and removal. I was deeply impressed by your passion for your mission and enjoyed moderating the discussion with you and other experts in the field. While writing this letter to you, I am trying to remember which conference it was but my memory fails me. But I do remember your words spoken full of passion for your mission: “we can gain valuable hours, even days, in fighting the spread of viruses when we start sharing information”.
Slowly, very slowly, sharing information on cyber threats and cyber crimes has become a strategy for many players in the field. You were the passionate pioneer for rapidly sharing threat information when others were still focusing on protecting their knowledge and reputation.
A few years later we met again after another cyber security conference. You showed your kindness by offering me to share your ride back to the hotel when my pickup didn’t arrive. Before I could accept your generous offer, my driver showed up. Too bad, I would have enjoyed having another conversation with you.
What started with figuring out how to remove a virus that infected your system at work turned into a global company with countless crucial contributions to fighting cyber crime. Nowadays the political turmoil has zoomed in on and singled out your company, without reflecting all you and your company have done in over 20 years for security and the fight against digital crime. These decisions are not made by us and unfortunately also not ours to make. Politicians make those decisions based on their agendas which in too many cases are not in our interests.
This feels like expelling your top scorer from the team because someone heard something from someone else who heard it elsewhere. The community sees you as “one of us”, a level of acceptance and respect none of the other major players have been able to establish. Not even Linus! You’re one of us, we need you back on the team!
It is my sincerest wish to see you back on the international stages of the Cyber Security community, so we can all benefit again from your fight against cyber crime. Even more than that, I wish that the collaborations at all levels of cyber security and fighting cyber crime will resume again.
I am convinced you will lead Kaspersky Lab through this crisis, and hope that all transparency initiatives will create a stronger and better foundation to fight cyber crime and political agendas!
Dr. ir Johannes Drooghaag