January 21, 2013: Internet security firm Kaspersky Labs recently announced the discovery of a stealthy espionage program that had been secretly planted in the PCs and smart phones of key military personnel in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and dozens of other nations (U.S., Australia, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Brazil, Spain, South Africa, Japan, and the UAE) as well. Kaspersky called this espionage malware Red October because it appeared to have been created by Russian speaking programmers. It is a very elaborate and versatile malware system. Hundreds of different modules have been discovered and Red October has been customized for a larger number of specific targets.
The Red October Internet campaign has been going on for at least five years and has been seeking military and diplomatic secrets. Red October does not appear to be the product of some government intelligence agency and may be one of several shadowy private hacker groups that specialize in seeking out military secrets and then selling them to the highest bidder. The buyers of this stuff prefer to remain quiet about obtaining secrets this way.
The major Internet security companies make it their business to uncover criminal use of the Internet and sell protection to consumers as well as business and government customers. One of the primary firms involved in this work is a Russian one: Kaspersky Labs. While Kaspersky has long done excellent work producing commercial Internet security software, it also has close ties with the Russian government. Thus the Kaspersky work in dissecting software used for espionage provides the Russian intelligence agencies with a head start in turning this technology into something that could serve Russia, either with better Internet defenses or Cyber War weapons or just insights into what the next generation of these weapons would be like. Kaspersky is rushing to develop commercial software that will better protect from these Cyber Weapons. The Russian government has no comment on any of this.