IS KASPERSKY STILL SAFE?
The unspoken truth – what nobody is telling you
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 ( www.snipca.com/ 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. snipca.com/26505) 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. snipca.com/26500) 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