according to Kaspersky Lab, as the company recruited senior managers in the U.S. and Europe to expand its business and readied an initial public offering with a U.S. investment firm.
In 2012, however, Kaspersky Lab abruptly changed course. Since then, high-level managers have left or been fired, their jobs often filled by people with closer ties to Russia’s military or intelligence services. Some of these people actively aid criminal investigations by the FSB, the KGB’s successor, using data from some of the 400 million customers who rely on Kaspersky Lab’s software, say six current and former employees who declined to discuss the matter publicly because they feared reprisals. This closeness starts at the top: Unless Kaspersky is traveling, he rarely misses a weekly banya (sauna) night with a group of about 5 to 10 that usually includes Russian intelligence officials. Kaspersky says in an interview that the group saunas are purely social: “When I go to banya, they’re friends.”
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In 2014 after a handful of senior managers, including Chief Technology Officer Nikolay Grebennikov and North American President Steve Orenberg, asked Kaspersky to consider appointing a new CEO and retaining only the chairmanship of the company, he fired them.
Chief Legal Officer Igor Chekunov, who regularly joins Kaspersky’s banya nights, is the point man for the company’s work with the Russian government, three of the insiders say. Since 2013 he has managed a team of 10 specialists who study data from customers who have been hacked and provide technical support to the FSB and other Russian agencies. The team can access data directly from any of the company’s systems.