True or false. Is the famous Russian antivirus Kaspersky a threat to your computer?

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Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the famous Russian anti-virus program Kaspersky has alarmed the United States and Europe. While some talk about belonging to Vladimir Putin’s authority, espionage or willful neglect, what risks does installing Kaspersky present to you?

Europe has questions about the use of the Russian antivirus program Kaspersky. In France, the ANSII (National Agency for Information Systems Security) has already warned, in a report, about the potential risks of using Kaspersky products. Germany recently came to the same conclusions, and Wahsington has already sidelined the services provided by the Russian company.

Kaspersky has not been blacklisted for a performance issue, but its connections to Russia and its impact on cybersecurity have been a growing concern since the start of the war in Ukraine. But is antivirus really harmful? What are the risks of a user downloading it? Do Russians use Kaspersky for spying purposes? Today, the debate is open.

What threat might Kaspersky pose?

In its report, ANSII specifies that “at this point,” nothing justifies the facts alleged against antivirus. But with the tensions between Russia and the West, the fear of voluntary discontinuation of updates, which makes the system obsolete, and the user vulnerable to cyberattacks, is now being considered.

In the context of cross-sanctions, “Russia’s isolation in the international arena (…) may affect the ability of its companies to provide updates to their products and services, and thus maintain them in the latest technologies necessary to protect customers.” If this point is the only point at the moment that attracts the attention of Europeans, then our neighbors across the Atlantic Ocean have already taken a step forward.

Since 2017, in the United States, antivirus software has been blacklisted by the government. At one point accused of being a “Trojan horse” led by Russian intelligence with the purpose of espionage, the “threat” was even deemed “unacceptable to national security” by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). However, no evidence could be provided to support these observations and each time, the Russian company denied and defended itself by proposing to examine its software code.

Possibly ‘hacked’ software

Once downloaded, Kaspersky, like all other antivirus programs, has full rights and access to the computer. Gilbert Kalinborn, hi-tech journalist at 01.net specifies: “We don’t know if Kaspersky is being paid by the FSB, there is no evidence. But with full access to the hardware it would fear is it is being used, even without Kaspersky’s own knowledge, for various purposes.”

However, the risk is not concerned with the entire population: “The alert about Kaspersky applies to companies and public bodies. As far as individuals are concerned, the software does not present a real risk because it does not tamper with sensitive information or infrastructure,” says Gilbert Cullenborn.

Unfounded fears?

Distrust in Russian society is intrinsically linked to Western sanctions against Russia: “Fear is not well-founded, cybersecurity experts are much more divided than Western governments are,” asserts Yannick Beach, an expert on cyber defense and cybersecurity.

The origin of this mistrust is above all “political”. If the United States goes further than Europe in representing the “Kaspersky threat,” it may be in response to what the antivirus program has revealed: the Iranian nuclear program revealed by Kaspersky by Yannick Beech.

Today, Kaspersky is not officially responsible for anything. However, we understand that distrust of the latter comes from a heavy political past: “It’s pressure again from Americans trying to tell everyone to do the same. With political and media pressure around Russia, the show is even more resentful than” concluded Yannick Beach.

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