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Kaspersky plays down source-code leak

Stolen, obsolete code has no effect on protection

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Leaked versions of source code for older versions of Kaspersky Lab's security software have been released through file-sharing networks over the last few days.

The source code comes from early 2008 versions of the consumer version of Kaspersky's security suite, which included anti-virus, anti-spam and parental control features. The beta code was originally swiped by a corrupt employee who tried to sell the technology prior to being arrested and convicted for intellectual property theft.

The source code is outdated and incomplete but may still provide clues to less than ethical second and third tier security firms on how to go about improving their products. The code – which previously appeared on online hacking forums back in November – is now far more accessible following its availability through BitTorrent and other file-sharing networks. It seems unlikely that the code would tell cybercrooks anything they didn't already know or provide much help in working ways around Kaspersky's security defences. More skilled and well-resourced virus writers commonly test their creations against a range of anti-virus tools prior to their release. Source code analysis doesn't figure in this process.

Kaspersky is playing down the significance of the incident. The antivirus software developer released this statement:

On 27 January 2011, Kaspersky Lab became aware that some parts of the source code for the company’s older (2008) range of products was illegally released on the internet.

After extensive checks, Kaspersky Lab specialists found links with an incident in early 2008 in which a former employee, who had access to the source code for the Company’s 2008 range of home user products, announced that the code could be bought over the internet. The matter was quickly referred to the relevant law enforcement agencies and the ex-employee was apprehended. The culprit was later found guilty by a Moscow district court under Article 183 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code and received a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence.

Kaspersky said the source code released on BitTorrent had already been released through underground forums. The wider availability of the code poses no risk, the developer said.

Kaspersky Lab reiterates that this incident cannot harm users of its products, solutions and services in any way. The stolen source code is related to one of the previous product lineups, and since then the company has renewed all key protection technologies. The stolen code represents a very small part of the modern product source code, and is not related to protection functionality. It also contains fragments of an obsolete version of the Kaspersky anti-virus engine, which has been radically redesigned and updated since the source code was stolen. ®

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