What It’s Like to Be Targeted by an (Alleged) Private Spy

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I bear no grudge against Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based cybersecurity company. I’ve only met Eugene Kaspersky, the firm’s founder, once, briefly, at a cybersecurity conference years ago. He was thoroughly charming. And friends in the business tell me that Kaspersky Lab’s technical expertise is top-notch.

However, it is true that I wouldn’t want to see their software installed on any system that contains information that shouldn’t be shared with the Russian government. And it’s that view that apparently brought me to the attention of shadowy figures working undercover, with a specific interest in discrediting people who say it publicly. That’s what led to bizarre encounters in a smart London hotel with a mysterious individual pretending, not very well, to be a Far Eastern investment consultant wanting to talk about Russia.

Meeting “Lucas Lambert”

It all started at the end of April 2018, with an email out of the blue to my address at Chatham House, the London-based think tank, asking me if I would be willing to speak at a conference. That’s not so unusual—I do get invitations like that, including from organizations I’ve never heard of before. In this case, it was supposed to be an investment consultancy with offices in Tokyo and Hong Kong, and the “senior partner” who contacted me asked to meet up in London to discuss it further.

That meeting was odd, but not so odd that I was sure it was a set-up. Mr. Lambert, my senior partner, said he was from Belgium but didn’t have a French or Flemish accent—instead, he sounded central European. He said he lived in Hong Kong, so since I know it well I asked him where; his answer didn’t sound like anything people who really live there usually say. And when I had looked up his company before the meeting, the website seemed generic, vague and anonymous. But all of this was within the bounds of possibility for being genuine.

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