SINGAPORE—A regulated passport to access certain parts of the Internet will take off "sooner or later", according to Kaspersky Lab chief executive officer and chairman Eugene Kaspersky.
It's an idea that Kaspersky's been harboring for a few years and has since attracted a fair bit of scepticism over, but he remains optimistic that the concept will help address current security concerns, facilitate e-commerce activities, and even promote voter turnout among digital natives by making it more convenient.
"When I'm talking about Internet IDs, it's not like they are your passports to connect to the Internet. It's your passport to have access to critical resources," Kaspersky explained to ZDNet in an interview. The Russian was in town to speak at the Interpol event, 1st Eurasian Working Group on Cybercrime for Heads of Units.
Under his vision, Internet access would be divided into two main zones. The first would be free access for activities such as reading the news or e-mail. The second would be restricted where a unique ID will be required to access "critical resources” such as bank transactions.
"It's like walking on the street, you don't need a badge. But to get to this hotel room you need one," Kaspersky elaborated.
The passport could come in the form of non-identifying unique IDs, which users can sign up for through a central register either government or privately-run, and which should be secured biometrically or cryptographically. In instances of computer misuse, governments can request for ID data from the central register.
This form of "anonymous" ID would also be convenient for transactions where generics details such as age, nationality or geographic location were needed including online purchases of alcohol, adult content, and casinos. The unique ID could potentially makes elections more convenient and might encourage more voters to take part in elections, especially from the younger generation, according to the CEO.
"I want to find a balance between privacy and at the same time stop bad guys," said Kaspersky. "I think people must have the ability to stay anonymous in social media, but at the same time, the government must have some tools to find individuals who behave the wrong way in social media."
Internet police idea coming into fruition
"I was talking about Internet Interpol for more than 10 years, finally it's become true," said Kaspersky. He was referring to the partnership announced in March where his company would support the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) opening in Singapore next year with tools, talent and training.
With Kaspersky stepping up its involvement in the region, plans are underway to expand its presence in Singapore where it curiously still does not have an office and relies on partners. It's nearest office is in the Malaysian state of Selangor, near the capital Kuala Lumpur. "That's because the company name is Kaspersky Labs, which is K.L. in short," he joked.
"Seriously when we were looking for our office in the region, there were two options: [near] K.L. and Singapore. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough resources at that time, Singapore was an expensive place. But now if we were looking for that office right now, it would be Singapore for sure."
Kaspersky's stop in Singapore is the latest in what The Irish Times has called his seemingly endless "roadshow on cybernasty woes of modern life" around the world, with recent visits including Australia and Abu Dhabi. Ideas that he has been pushing include the potential destruction of a digital arms race, and cyberespionage threatening the future of the Internet by eroding international cooperation.