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Is Kaspersky Anti-virus Software in Deep Trouble? – IT security matters

According to GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre there’s big trouble in the Kaspersky anti-virus camp as British secret services become ever-more suspicious about the software’s remarkable potential for snooping. Worse still it’s being used by two million Barclays Bank customers, given away free by the bank in a campaign designed to improve people’s online security.

The trouble is, it would be all too easy for the anti-virus software to be co-opted as an intelligence-gathering tool by foreign governments, in this case Russia. And as such officials have been concerned about a breach for quite some time.

Has the FSB exploited Kaspersky’s extraordinary success?

Kaspersky Lab is an enormously successful computer security business, and GCHQ is worried that the company’s success itself might have been exploited by the FSB, the Russian secret service. Barclays has been giving the software away free to customers since 2008. Now they’re keen to end the arrangement with Kaspersky but the widespread distribution of the software means customers like UK government and military employees might – in future – see their personal data compromised.

There’s absolutely no evidence… so far. And Barclays claim they want to end the commercial relationship with Kaspersky for business reasons, nothing to do with GCHQ, spying or data theft. They say the two organisations haven’t even discussed the matter, and they have never had any advice or guidance from GCHQ or the National Cyber Security Centre in relation to the software. All this makes sense since NCSC is not a regulator, never bans or recommends products, and their certification doesn’t cover anti-virus services.

Where do the rumours originate?

In autumn this year the US Department of Homeland Security banned Kaspersky products from US government agencies. US and Israeli intelligence agencies say they have evidence about Russians using the software to hack sensitive information, something Kaspersky vehemently denies. Their software is used by thousands of British businesses, they have more than 400 million users across the world, and they insist the allegations are totally false. Nor has the UK government announced an official position on the matter.

Is it simply a case of political paranoia about Russia?

This could all, of course, be down to the current superheated paranoia about Russia’s alleged yet so far unproven role in international politics. But even if that’s the case, the potential is there. In fact any anti-virus software could, in the hands of the right hackers, be harnessed for evil. But the message from us is clear: if GCHQ or the NCSC makes an announcement about cyber-security, it makes sense to listen out and take heed. Complacency is your worst enemy. It may seem sad and cynical, but in a business context assuming the worst may happen is a great starting point for exceptional IT security.

Keep your business safe from IT security breaches

All this doesn’t mean you should ditch your Kaspersky anti-virus tools – or any other – at the first sign of a rumour. But it does mean that you owe it to your company to do everything you can to mitigate the risk of IT security breaches. That’s what we do. We can help you be as secure as humanly possible. Please contact us.

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