The un­spo­ken truth – what no­body is telling you

Computer Active (UK) - - Front Page -

At Com­put­er­ac­tive we’re proud that our top pri­or­ity is help­ing you to stay safe. Yes, we want to an­swer your prob­lems and give you tips, but they won’t work on a hacked PC. Block­ing mal­ware comes be­fore ev­ery­thing else.

So alarm bells rang when in early De­cem­ber the UK’S Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Cen­tre (NCSC) ad­vised Govern­ment de­part­ments not to use Rus­sian an­tivirus soft­ware.

In a let­ter to se­nior civil ser­vants ( 26504), NCSC’S chief ex­ec­u­tive Ciaran Martin said “a Rus­si­abased provider should never be used” on com­puter sys­tems deal­ing with in­for­ma­tion clas­si­fied “Se­cret and above”.

By “Rus­sia-based provider” he meant Kaspersky, which has its head­quar­ters in Moscow. Its soft­ware has won the past nine Com­put­er­ac­tive an­tivirus tests, the lat­est of which ap­peared in our last is­sue, co­in­cid­ing with the NCSC’S warning.

The Cen­tre’s con­cern stems from how an­tivirus pro­grams re­port de­tails of at­tacks to its de­vel­op­ers. This in­for­ma­tion, if in­ter­cepted by a hos­tile govern­ment, could be used to steal sen­si­tive data or launch cy­ber-at­tacks. There is no ev­i­dence what­so­ever link­ing Kaspersky to the Krem­lin, but none­the­less the NCSC is dis­cussing with the com­pany how to de­velop “ver­i­fi­able mea­sures to prevent the trans­fer of UK data to the Rus­sian state”.

So where does that leave our rec­om­men­da­tion to use Kaspersky? Should we reap­praise our ver­dict?

Our an­swer is that there’s noth­ing to sug­gest Kaspersky is un­safe on home com­put­ers. In fact, all the ev­i­dence points to the con­trary. In our most re­cent test it was one of only two pro­grams to block ev­ery threat (Sy­man­tec’s Nor­ton was the other).

True, our an­tivirus tests have never checked whether Kaspersky has in­fil­trated the UK’S cor­ri­dors of power. But time and again it has pro­vided the best de­fence for home users against com­mon cy­ber-crim­i­nals.

If you’re happy with Kaspersky’s pro­tec­tion you should stick with it. That’s not just our ad­vice, but also the NCSC’S. In a blog post ( www. Ian Levy, the Cen­tre’s Tech­ni­cal Di­rec­tor, said there’s no “com­pelling case” for dis­cour­ag­ing in­di­vid­u­als or busi­nesses from us­ing Kaspersky.

He added: “What­ever you do, don’t panic. For ex­am­ple, we re­ally don’t want peo­ple do­ing things like rip­ping out Kaspersky soft­ware”. Such nu­anced ad­vice got drowned out in the hys­ter­i­cal ‘Putin is spy­ing on you’ head­lines.

In a bid to dis­pel mis­in­for­ma­tion, Kaspersky has launched a site (‘Can I trust Kaspersky Lab?’, www. an­swer­ing key al­le­ga­tions. It states it has

“no po­lit­i­cal ties to any govern­ment or coun­try”, and has never been en­gaged in cy­ber-es­pi­onage.

One cru­cial point Levy made has been largely ig­nored. He said that Rus­sia is sim­i­larly cau­tious about us­ing “Western prod­ucts”. You won’t find Krem­lin com­put­ers run­ning soft­ware made by Sy­man­tec, Mal­ware­bytes, Trend Mi­cro, Mcafee and many other com­pa­nies con­sid­ered safe by most UK users. But there’s no sug­ges­tion that Sy­man­tec is spy­ing on peo­ple from Saint Peters­burg to Vladi­vos­tok.

Let’s be clear. Rus­sian hack­ing poses a grave threat to the UK. Levy says Rus­sia will re­main a dan­ger even if Kaspersky and the NCSC do find a method to ver­ify the se­cu­rity of the com­pany’s prod­ucts. But there are no facts link­ing Kaspersky - which has of­fices in 31 coun­tries, and is run through a hold­ing com­pany in London - with Krem­lin-backed hack­ers. Un­less you hap­pen to run a highly sen­si­tive Govern­ment de­part­ment, there’s no rea­son to stop us­ing it.

What­ever you do, don’t panic. We re­ally don’t want peo­ple rip­ping out Kaspersky soft­ware

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