By Veniamin Ginodman
Head of Education Initiatives Department, Kaspersky Lab
A thinking man derives most pleasure from overcoming difficulties. The greater the challenge, the more rewarding the work – and the most impressive the victory.
When making plans for the final round of the international students’ conference CyberSecurity for the Next Generation 2013-2014, Kaspersky Lab’s department of education initiatives had several good reasons to head for Stockholm.
We knew Sweden was a calm, prosperous country in northern Europe. Neutral in all respects, calmly contemplating today’s political storms. A favorable academic environment. A pervasive penetration of computers and the Internet. And last but not least, the nice, attractive, fabulous cultural background: Moomins , Pippi Longstocking, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Nils’ wonderful adventures with the wild geese…
That was what the brochure promised, but in the event we encountered the complete opposite. Never before did we hold a conference under such extreme conditions. To continue our literary analogy, we were hoping for a date with Pippi Longstocking, but instead encountered Lisbeth Salander, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the figment of Stieg Larsson’s dark fantasy.
It all started with incredibly foul weather. Then, our girls got harassed by some Turkish youths with overly brilliantined hair. Further on, we found out that the pedestrian street lusciously named Drottninggatan had been occupied by bums who seemed to have come from one of Moscow’s bleaker housing estates. They were squatting down in their trademark tracksuits, munching sunflower seeds and inventing ever-more ingenious and obscene curses in Russian.
The picture was completed with a lively, noisy protest in Sergel Torg, the central square. We’ve no idea who these people were, or what was upsetting them. They wore burnouses, galabeyas and felt boots, waved Syrian flags, sang in Arabic and chanted slogans in Swedish. Most of all, they made a lot of noise. Later we learned that Swedish gypsies, Swedish Kurds and Swedish Vietnamese are capable of staging similar performances.
However, our most dangerous opponent was the World Cup. In order to distract our talented students and university teachers from Kaspersky Lab’s conference, the evil-minded FIFA brought together as many as 32 football teams in Brazil and arranged TV broadcasts of games as many as four times a day.
But we were strong enough to withstand. We put FIFA to shame by developing such a program for the conference that watching 22 men kicking a ball around for an hour and a half would in comparison appear a very primitive amusement. Kaspersky Lab’s Swedish dream team was so powerful that it would reduce Scolari and Del Bosque to tears. Ours was a truly global team, a hand-picked best-of-the-best, and unlike football, which demands only one winner, in our competition everybody goes away with some reward. So all the participants who came to Stockholm from Hong Kong, Yerevan, Washington, Moscow, Manila and half a dozen western European cities spent a very good time together.
Here is yet another fundamentally important consideration: football is fickle, changeable and unpredictable. Today the Spanish team is the world champion, and tomorrow they crash out in flames. We, Kaspersky Lab, in contrast, promote knowledge, sow the seeds of wisdom and intelligence, and work towards an eternal good – a noble aim.
This is nothing more than the simple truth (especially the bit about eternal good). The academic level displayed in the students’ projects was fantastic (as unanimously attested by the jury). The professors (Kaspersky Lab’s old and new friends) were wise and clear-sighted as never before (as unanimously attested by the organizers). The entertainment program was creative, diverse and enjoyable (as unanimously attested by everybody). On the evening of July 24, even the football-crazy Italian fans were distracted from the earth-shattering Italy – Uruguay match to watch our triumphal march across the Old City…
The pains and solicitudes were not in vain. Although the organizers must be impartial, we were still glad at the fact that there were two Russian students among the final stage prize-winners: Artem Shumilov from Moscow State Technical University and Sergey Shpak from the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI; this was a first for our student conference. In the end, though, everybody gets a reward from this event. On our final evening we visited the Golden Hall in Stockholm City Hall, the place where the Nobel Prizes are handed out. As we walked down the grand staircase, everybody imagined returning one day to collect their own Nobel, and mentally rehearsed their speech. It’s a big dream, but it may not be beyond some of our student stars.