Russian envoy wants Kaspersky Lab to secure BHIM project

A new defense law in the US bans the use Kaspersky Lab from government computers over company’s alleged links to Russia’s spy agencies. The company says it understands US president’s “real intentions”

Vladimir/Russian embassy
Vladimir/Russian embassy

Dhairya Maheshwari

Pitching for greater cooperation between Russia and India in cyber security, Moscow's envoy to New Delhi Nikolay Kudashev on Thursday proposed that Russia's cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs be made the digital security partner of the BHIM App, a digital payment-interface launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September last year.

"... I would like to make a small but relevant remark about the Bharat Interface for Money initiative for digital payments developed in India. I am confident that Kaspersky Lab can provide security solutions for such platforms," Kudashev said.

The suggestion came during his address at a discussion on cyber security, International Cooperation in Information Space: Threats, Trends and Perspectives, at the Russian Embassy in New Delhi.

"It is not a proposal, just an idea from the top of my mind to bring them together," Russia's ambassador added.

"Global statistics show that on average every 40 seconds a computer connected to the internet is being hacked," he highlighted during his speech.

Kudashev said that manipuation of information had become a widespread tool to influence political, social and economic situation, as well as to destabilize states from inside.

"An even more dangerous trend is that a cyber-provocation can bring countries into confrontation or even war," he remarked.

The conference was jointly organised by the Russian Embassy and Kaspersky Labs.

Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky said in his address that the ongoing push towards a more digitally advanced India made the country all the more vulnerable to cyber attacks from within and overseas. "It is a cyberspace. Everyone is connected," he added.

He also informed the audience that Centre and his company were holding consultations to strengthen digital security of "India's critical infrastructure."

"Power grids, election systems, transportation, water supply and financial services, all comprise nation's critical infrastructure," he explained.

Kaspersy said that he had met India's cyber security chief Gulshan Rai earlier in the day. "We discussed issues such as cyber security and cyber terrorism," he said. The post of cyber security head was created in 2015 and reports to PM’s office.

Stephan Neumeier, Kaspersky Lab's Managing Director for Asia-Pacific operations, said during the questions and answers round with the audience that India's young demography and internet penetration potential meant the country was one of the most important markets.

Addressing allegations that Kaspersky Labs had helped the Russian intelligence agencies to hack US government computers, Neumeier said that the company "understands the real intentions" of the American government.

America's president Donald Trump had earlier this week signed a law banning the use of Russian cybersecurity firm's products on US government computers over company’s alleged links to Russia’s intelligence agencies.

Neumeier expressed confidence that the antivirus company would continue with its double digit growth in India over coming months.

"We are expanding our business in India. We are hiring local talent as were are in the process of establishing more offices in New Delhi and other metro cities," Kaspersky Lab's MD said.

Russia and India have been having top level talks on cybersecurity over the last few years. The countries signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in IT in 2016. A high-level delegation from NASSCOM accompanied PM Modi to the International Economic Forum in St Petersberg in June 2017, after minesterial level talks cooperation in information and technology in April 2017.

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