Kaspersky Lab Plots Swiss Data Centre To Allay Russia Concerns

Russian security specialist Kaspersky Lab will reportedly build a data centre in neutral Switzerland in an effort to allay Western national security concerns about anti-virus software.

The Swiss data centre is to be one of a series of ‘transparency centres’ located around the world, and will be used to collect and analyse files identified as suspicious from the computers of tens of millions of Kaspersky customers based in the United States and European Union.

Kaspersky Lab has spent the best part of a year or more denying it has any links to Russian intelligence services, but a number of Western governments have banned its use within governmental departments.

Swiss facility

The news that Kaspersky Lab plans to open a data centre in Switzerland to allay Western fears that Russia intelligence services exploit its anti-virus software to spy on customers, came after Reuters examined internal documents.

The decision to build a Swiss data centre is a direct response to actions in the United States, UK and other countries according to the documents, which were apparently confirmed by a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The US allegations were the “trigger” for setting up the Swiss data centre, the person familiar with Kapersky’s Switzerland plans told Reuters, but it was not the only factor.

“The world is changing,” the source reportedly said. “There is more balkanisation and protectionism.”

The person declined to provide further details on the new project, but added: “This is not just a PR stunt. We are really changing our R&D infrastructure.”

A Kaspersky spokeswoman reportedly declined to comment.

US, European data

But it did admit that it was seeking to open a number of transparency centres, namely in Europe, Asia, and United States.

“To further deliver on the promises of our Global Transparency Initiative, we are finalising plans for the opening of the company’s first transparency centre this year, which will be located in Europe,” it was reported as saying in a statement.

“We understand that during a time of geopolitical tension, mirrored by an increasingly complex cyber-threat landscape, people may have questions and we want to address them,” it reportedly said.

The Swiss transparency centre will collect and analyse files identified as suspicious on the computers of Kaspersky customers in the United States and European Union. Data from other customers will continue to be sent to a Moscow data centre for review and analysis.

Files would only be transmitted from Switzerland to Moscow in cases when anomalies are detected that require manual review, the person said, adding that about 99.6 percent of such samples do not currently undergo this process.

It is understood that a third party will review the centre’s operations to make sure that all requests for such files are properly signed, stored and available for review by outsiders including foreign governments, the person said.

Construction of the Swiss transparency centre is set to start “within weeks” and be completed by early 2020, according to Reuters source.

National security

But the report did also mention that the Swiss move could be derailed by the Russian security services, who might resist moving the data centre outside of their jurisdiction, people familiar with Kaspersky and its relations with the government told Reuters.

Meanwhile the firm has filed a legal challenge against an order issued by the US Department for Homeland Security, banning its products from use by government agencies.

In addition Kaspersky Lab said last October it would offer the source code of current and future versions of its products for independent review, but US officials have said such a step would not suffice to overturn their qualms.

Kaspersky has repeatedly denied its tools could be used to pass information to the Russian authorities.

In the UK, GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) warned government departments not to use antivirus software with links to Russia – such as those of Kaspersky Lab – for systems related to national security.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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