Kaspersky Labs, a Russian anti-malware firm, has come under international scrutiny since the US government labeled it a security threat in June 2017, citing potential built-in back doors and links of former executives to the Kremlin. Sales to businesses and consumers have fallen in quarters since, as consumers increasingly discern online and purchasing decisions based on new anxieties surrounding the power of data. In response Kaspersky Labs announced this week that they will be moving its core infrastructure from Russia to a ‘neutral’ data center in Switzerland by the end of this year. Essentially, this is a milestone event marking the preeminent role of ‘data’ on the geopolitical stage.
Data is essentially the key ingredient, acting as the primary facilitator, to Sharp and Shadow power as state tools. Kaspersky Labs’ PR move to Switzerland is the most recent amalgamation of this geopolitical struggle for data as the fuel for cyber warfare and statecraft. It is note-worthy, as the Big Three geopolitical powers (U.S., China, and Russia) have now each in turn had their Cyber footprint curtailed on the international stage. As such, intelligence agencies have been involved directly with the development of domestic tech industries from their nexus, exemplified through the CIA VC fund In-Q-Tel, seed-funding Google and Pokemon Go most notably. Pokémon Go was banned in Russia and Iran as it could, theoretically, be used to outsource the collection of intelligence data to consumers by placing a rare Pokémon near sensitive locations. China and Russia employed protectionist policies to envelop domestic markets from Google and Facebook to give state-funded alternatives the room to develop. With the respective intelligence agencies now openly linked to Facebook, ZTE, and Kaspersky, the methods used to smooth-over international relations tensions while new-avenues for data harvesting are developed, give an indication of coming geopolitical trends.
Governments and businesses will increasingly base infrastructural IT decisions on their geopolitical implications and potential cyber security threats, and consumers have begun to as well as per the latest Kaspersky earnings report. While this is just now trickling down to mass-market conscience, the pace of consumer education on the role data plays in daily life is accelerating. As distrust in foreign entities increases, centralized multi-national (MNC) tech firms will find their influence diminished internationally, setting the stage for decentralized alternatives, embodied by the crypto-movement currently. While China and Russia prevented Google and Facebook from gaining a significant foothold within their markets, the encroachment of data-driven MNCs stemming from “The Big Three” will slow as friction upon foreign market entry increases. Consumer backlash could eventually spur a form of “re-localization”, where demand-side and legislative market-shaping forces enable local tech as alternatives.