Is Kaspersky Still Reliable Antivirus Software?
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Security news is currently awash with a series of accusations against one of the world’s leading antivirus developers, Kaspersky Lab. The claims come on the back of months of speculation regarding Russian intent in foreign political events Hacking Can Win the Lottery: Can It Win an Election? Hacking Can Win the Lottery: Can It Win an Election? Electronic voting machines are prone to tampering, but there are other ways in which hacking can influence or outright decide the outcome of an election -- and it's all cause for serious concern. Read More . This article isn’t delving into those accusations.

This article is focusing on the allegations leveled at Kaspersky Lab, and whether it is safe to use their security products.

Alleged Spying

The Wall Street Journal reports that Kaspersky Lab is merely a tool of the Russian security services and is undermining U.S. government agencies by stealing data. Hackers targeted a specific contractor after identifying critical files scanned on his computer by a Kaspersky antivirus product. The stolen files contain details of how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks Could These NSA Cyber-Espionage Techniques Be Used Against You? Could These NSA Cyber-Espionage Techniques Be Used Against You? If the NSA can track you – and we know it can – so can cybercriminals. Here's how government-made tools will be used against you later. Read More and defends against cyber attacks — after the contractor removed the highly classified files from the NSA and stored them on his computer (another massive security failing).

Kaspersky Lab

Israeli spies found the stolen material on the Kaspersky Lab network in 2015. The issue came to light back in October. Since then, the U.S. and U.K. governments have both issued warnings about the security risks of using Russian antivirus software. Both governments specifically reference Kaspersky but have expanded their warning to all cybersecurity products with a Russian developer.

The Department of Homeland Security issued the following statement:

“The department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks.

The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.”

How Did Kaspersky Respond?

Well, understandably, Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky strongly refuted the accusations, stating that “Kaspersky Lab doesn’t have inappropriate ties with any government, which is why no credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization to back up the false allegations made against the company.” The “credible evidence” aspect of the company declaration is important.

While the US and UK governments have quickly condemned Kaspersky, there is little in the way of factual evidence. Kaspersky further pointed out that over 85 percent of their income comes from overseas markets. Working with individual governments against others would be severely detrimental to their bottom line. Evidence or not, it is being eroded.

Audit the Software

In fact, in the interest of protecting the Kaspersky name and global reputation, Eugene Kaspersky has repeatedly offered to allow independent auditors review the antivirus and other software source code. The Russian cybersecurity firm believes they “need to reestablish trust in relationships between global companies, governments, and citizens” before they can clear their name.

The nature of antivirus software means that any suite has near total control over its host machine. Antivirus software must scan deep into the root of the device to uncover hidden malware and other nasties. Uncovering extremely well-hidden malware is what gave Kaspersky its name, after all. Kaspersky, however, realizes that “trust is not a given” and that there is a path to climb, regardless of their involvement.

The Cybersecurity Experts Weigh In

Cybersecurity experts are somewhat split over the contentious issue of Kaspersky antivirus delivering details of highly classified NSA files.

It boils down to two hypotheticals:

  1. Kaspersky did knowingly alert Russian authorities or hackers as to the presence of highly classified yet insecure NSA documents on a contractors’ personal computer.
  2. Kaspersky knew the highly classified files were there because the antivirus scan returned positive with some variety of NSA hacking tool, hence their appearance in the Kaspersky network.

Many cybersecurity experts believe the second scenario is more likely. Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at John Hopkins University, offered another stance: “Consensus on infosec Twitter is that Kaspersky may not have colluded with [the Russian government]; just maybe their product may be horrendously compromised.”

However, other security experts chimed in with their support for the second scenario. Furthermore, while Kaspersky doesn’t directly work with individual governments, they almost certainly analyze their heuristic scans. And if those scans turn up highly classified NSA hacking tools, who is to say a hacker (or hackers) already within the Kaspersky network were not instantly made aware.

After all, Israeli spies broke the news to the NSA regarding their compromised files. We don’t know who else has broken into the network.

In the Clear

Kaspersky is one of the best antivirus products on the market. Kaspersky Lab has seen stratospheric rise under the stewardship of Eugene Kaspersky, all while under notoriously restrictive Russian governments. Eugene Kaspersky is himself a former KGB signals-intelligence software engineer. His critics have long accused him of using Kaspersky as a Russian intelligence tool. Kaspersky freely admits that they work with the FSB when called upon — it would be against company interests not to.

Conversely, the anti-Russian sentiment is at a recent high. Accusations of high level Russian military experts switching to civilian cybersecurity are just as easily leveled at American, British, and European companies. Similarly, U.S.-developed Norton Antivirus frequently works closely with the FBI. Should the U.S. public mistrust Norton for assisting their government?

Okay, Just Tell Me: Can I Use Kaspersky or Not?

Well, how patriotic are you? I’m kidding.

But a clear line the in the sand has been drawn. Certain U.S. government agencies have long suggested their employees and contractors stop using Russian-made antivirus products. But the addition of the U.K. government and the withdrawal of Barclays free 12-month Kaspersky free trial offer has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Of course, what businesses do doesn’t necessarily apply to the public. So, on the one hand, we have Ciaran Martin, director of the UK National Cyber Security Centre advising government departments against using Russian-developed cybersecurity products. On the other hand, we have Ian Levy, the NCSC’s technical director, confirming that there is “no compelling case at present to extend that advice to [the] wider public sector, more general enterprises, or individuals.”

Kaspersky cybersecurity products are clear for use if you’re not a government agency, working for the NSA or another U.S. government department, or a government contractor. In fact, Kaspersky cybersecurity products frequently receive extremely positive feedback Compare Your Anti-Virus' Performance with These 5 Top Sites Compare Your Anti-Virus' Performance with These 5 Top Sites Which anti-virus software should use? Which is the "best"? Here we take a look at five of the best online resources for checking anti-virus performance, to help you make an informed decision. Read More . They’re well known for removing stubborn malware The Complete Malware Removal Guide The Complete Malware Removal Guide Malware is everywhere these days, and eradicating malware from your system is a lengthy process, requiring guidance. If you think your computer is infected, this is the guide you need. Read More , as well as offering a wide range of ransomware and rootkit removal tools 12 Tools You Can Use to Help Beat Ransomware 12 Tools You Can Use to Help Beat Ransomware One of the biggest issues facing computer users is ransomware. And while a ransomware infection is notoriously difficult to fight, it isn't impossible. See how these tools can help. Read More .

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The first phase of Kaspersky’s transparency initiative will commence in the first quarter of 2018. You can be sure that we’ll be there when it happens!

Do you now mistrust Kaspersky cybersecurity products? Have you always? Or as a private citizen, does it simply not matter?

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  1. Jon Heil
    December 21, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Nope thats always been a CPU junker, even worse is McCrappy... Go with ESET with the Internet Security and team that with Malwarebytes, best combo!

  2. Mike Cornelison
    December 15, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    My God. There is truly no end to the delusions of the Hillary lovers. When the Hillary-loving media told you that without a doubt, Hillary was going to be our next president, you believed it. When we found out the DNC made a coordinated effort to cheat Bernie Sanders a fair shot at the Democrat nomination, you shrugged your shoulders. It was when the media was humiliated after ten thousand times of telling you Donald Trump doesn't have a shot, that was when they tried to find some sort of explanation as to how ridiculously wrong the entire Hillary-loving media had been.

    And that was when all this dopey "Russia, Russia, Russia!" hysteria began.

    Congratulations, not only did you buy into this Russia conspiracy garbage hook, line and sinker, but you're doing your best to feed into it as well.

    • ike301
      December 16, 2017 at 3:32 am

      This was not the place for your lunatic rant.

      • dragonmouth
        December 16, 2017 at 2:36 pm

        Speaking of rants....
        Ever since the throne was snatched from right under Hillary's butt, she and the Democrats, have been blaming anybody and everybody other than themselves on the loss in the election. It still hasn't dawned on them that Trump's message resonated better with the voters than Hillary's.

        BTW - Trump is a pompous, bombastic buffoon. When faced with a choice of lesser of two evils, no matter how you choose, you wind up with evil. The voters always wind up with the government they deserve.

        • ike301
          December 17, 2017 at 8:02 pm

          I 100% agree with you. I supported Bernie, but voted for Hillary in the end, because I knew the buffoon on the White House now would be a disaster.

      • David Hasslehoff
        December 16, 2017 at 4:52 pm

        Remember how one of Hillary's first acts as secretary of state was to hand the Russian ambassador a mistranslated reset button because the goal was to get a whole lot cozier with the Russians after the Bush years? Oh the irony on that one. Just five years ago, Obama was mocking Romney's warnings about the Russians by saying, "The 80s called, they want their foreign policy back."

        Lose one election and then now all of a sudden, the Russians are the big bad boogeyman for all the sore losers on the left.

    • Dan
      December 16, 2017 at 7:44 am

      "Against stupidy even the gods contend in vain." - Goethe Yes, Russia did hack US elections. I worked in IT security for 10 years before retiring. I'd bet the farm on it. But dumber than dirt Democrats failed to follow best practices with confidential information. I'm a life-time Democrat and I despair over being forced to side with stupidy over greed. Russia helped Trump but the help was not decisive. It was HRC's arrogant use of a private email server that exposed her to Wiener that cost her the election of 2016.

      • dragonmouth
        December 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

        " Yes, Russia did hack US elections."
        How long has that allegation been around? In all that time, nobody has stated exactly HOW the Russians "hacked the election". Does ANYBODY have any concrete proof? All we hear are vague accusations.

        "I'd bet the farm on it."
        I hope you can afford it. :-)
        Remember, bet with your head, not over it.

      • agent of the Kremlin
        December 18, 2017 at 10:24 am

        So badly worked 10 years in IT. I'm reading Russian and I'm funny about you. Do not you think that up to you it's up to you? In general, everything is exactly on America, but your government always disinforms you and Europe all the time. I assure you, despite all nenavsip to russia, we Russians love you and respect and we do not have any malice towards you. If Russia wanted to crack the election, then it would have done it 20 years ago, and Kaspersky is a very productive product. Your media and the media develop such nenavsit to other countries that I feel very insulted. I have always dreamed of going to the great country of the USA, but I changed my mind. In the United States reign mass, and not prizenda, there are no international rules and compliance. Good luck to you zombie smi man :)

  3. dragonmouth
    December 15, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    If one believes that Kaspersky is spyware just because it is Russian, then one must also believe that ANY software developed in Russia contains spyware. It is known that the NSA/US government spies on anybody and everybody it can. Therefore, are we to assume that all software developed by US software houses contains spyware and backdoors to facilitate NSA's task? Once you start sliding down the slippery slope of paranoia, you start suspecting everyone.

    What is the difference between the Russians spying on us and our own spying on us? I know, the Russians are out to steal everybody's most secret files while our government is only interested in discovering and defusing terrorist plots. If you believe that then I have a bridge to sell you at a very reasonable price.

    WHY is the NSA and other alphabet agencies using a third party A/V?! Or for that matter, any third party software?! The only way to make sure there is no spyware/malware included in the software they use is to write all of it themselves from scratch.

  4. Oleksandr Zubchenko
    December 15, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    I said it year ago and I say it now: "Nice try, FSB/KGB, but no, thanks! NO WAY!" We in Ukraine knew it all long before 2014, when Putin (known after this under the nickname "Khuilo" - "D*ckhead" in Ukrainian - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putin_khuilo! ) started the war against us.