Black hats are great for language diversity, says Eugene Kaspersky

Also reckons Russian hackers go quiet over the Christmas holidays

FIC2019 According to Eugene Kaspersky, founder of the eponymous antivirus company, black-hat hackers are increasingly likely to speak Portuguese and Spanish as well as the traditional English, Russian and Chinese.

Kaspersky was speaking at France's Forum International de la Cybersécurité (FIC 2019) this morning. He did, however, cheerfully concede that a large amount of hacking is still carried out by his countrymen despite any observed shifts in language popularity.

"For highly sophisticated criminal attacks, all of them speak Russian. Thanks to quality Russian technical education! Russian software engineers are the best; Russian criminals are the worst!"

Eugene also annoyed a Frenchman, General Olivier Bonnet de Paillerets of the French Army's Cyber Command. The general had been speaking about French efforts to convince local youth tempted by the glamorous hacker lifestyle to join the forces of good instead.

"I have a couple of examples of young people who had developed this talent at one point [and] said 'That is it, it's finished, it's going too far, I want to come back to the normal world'," said General de Paillerets. "The normal world is of this collective security challenge."

Amused, Kaspersky retorted in his Russian drawl: "The hackers are not around here! They're 1,000km away from here. They're in Latin America, Russian-speaking countries, China, Turkey. They're living far from France. The French-speaking malware, [there's] not much actually... First of all there are immigration issues, then they have to study French."

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Already unamused after having been caricatured as a gun-toting killer by the in-house cartoonist*, General de Paillerets frowned but diplomatically held his tongue. Yesterday French defence secretary Florence Parly had spoken at length about the need to grow more French cybersecurity talent.

Kaspersky went on to talk more about the languages his company tends to see in malware used for spying.

"Espionage! Native English, Atlantic zone," he said in his characteristic broken English. "Native Russian, Eastern Europe zone. But Russian speakers, they're not active during the Russian winter holidays," he grinned, allowing himself a theatrical shrug as the audience tittered.

"This is not an attribution issue," continued Kaspersky once the laughter had died away. "It's not 100 per cent proof of who's behind these attacks. And there's many other languages. Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Arabic. Many languages are used by the espionage tools." ®

Bootnote

During the talk, in a large auditorium, the 15-foot projector screen was occasionally filled with drawings made on the fly by a local cartoonist hired by the organisers to spice things up a bit.

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