I have nothing against Kaspersky. In fact, the Russian IT security company is even doing a pretty good job. Its anti-virus software – one of the most popular in the world – ranks high in the industry press, its prices are reasonable, and its researchers frequently discover new malware. I have also used them several times over the years to comment on computer security events. “This is a good security company with competent people,” Patrick Boucher, an independent computer security expert, confirms over the phone.
However, I have not used their products for several years. Kaspersky drags a ball that weighs more and more: his Russian origin.
“A Russian computer manufacturer could conduct offensive operations itself, be forced against its will to attack target systems, be the victim of a cyberattack without its knowledge, become the target of surveillance, or be used as a tool to carry out attacks against its own customers,” warned BSI, a German agency. in charge of cybersecurity on Tuesday. This does not call into question the intentions of Kaspersky, but in the context of the war in Ukraine, the company could be involved in computer attacks even against its will. Therefore, BSI does not recommend the use of its own antivirus.
Germany is not the first country to warn its population against Kaspersky Lab. The United States, for example, in 2017 banned its government agencies from using their products. The UK followed suit some time later. In a report released after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, France also questioned the use of the antivirus without banning it. However, Canada did not issue such a warning.
Kaspersky shows a white paw
Kaspersky Lab has grown accustomed to such criticism, and its response, always the same, still hits the mark: the company is not on the payroll of Moscow, and the warnings against its products are political, not technological. In recent years, the company has even gone to great lengths to increase its transparency and reassure its 400 million customers around the world. Kaspersky Lab, for example, opened a data center in Switzerland in 2020 to process and store information of its users from Europe, North America and a number of Asian countries.
Kaspersky Lab also opened a Transparency Center in New Brunswick at the end of 2021, which aims, among other things, to enable the international computer security community to assess the seriousness of its products and processes. Even the source code of his software is available to those who request it.
A Kaspersky Lab researcher admitted in a blog post on his personal website that the company and most of its developers are based in Russia, so they are “subject to local laws and have families.” The author does not provide details, but between the lines we understand that he is hinting at the possibility of blackmailing employees and their relatives. However, according to the researcher, Kaspersky Lab would take steps to protect against employees who would like to abuse the company’s resources, which would reduce this risk.
Even without evidence, doubts remain
Nothing indicates that Kaspersky has bad intentions. There is no evidence that the company is on the payroll of Moscow, and the measures outlined above, taken over the past few years to protect its reputation, are not working.
But Kaspersky may well show his authority and do his best in the world to look after his reputation, given that he is headquartered in Russia, a country run by a president with little respect for rules. Whether this is justified or not, I cannot be entirely sure.
I also asked Patrick Boucher, who is far more knowledgeable on the subject than I am, if he would install Kaspersky Anti-Virus on his personal computer. Although he admits that the fears are probably exaggerated, his answer is unequivocal: “No. I would not install. »
After all, an antivirus is not a product like the others. The idea here is not to banish it, how to remove Russian vodka from SAQ shelves or boycott athletes. An antivirus is software that has the necessary permissions on a computer to monitor and spy on it. Would you give full access to your documents and personal information to the company if you did not fully trust it, even if what they are accused of is not their fault? Me neither.
Moreover, there are other good antiviruses with which you can not be afraid of interference from Moscow. The risk of keeping Kaspersky Lab on your computer may be minimal, but it is not a necessary risk.