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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

UK government warned over Kaspersky Russian anti-virus software

The move comes amid rising concerns about Russian meddling in the affairs of Western nations

The chief executive of Kaspersky Lab, Eugene Kaspersky, has strongly denied allegations about the safety of its products or ties to the Russian government. Ian Gavan/Getty Images
The chief executive of Kaspersky Lab, Eugene Kaspersky, has strongly denied allegations about the safety of its products or ties to the Russian government. Ian Gavan/Getty Images

The British government has been warned against using Russian anti-virus software, in the latest in a series of moves targeting Moscow-based security software maker Kaspersky Lab.

The warning was issued in a letter from Ciaran Martin, the director of the UK National Cyber Security Centre, which was sent to all government departments.

It urged them not to use the products in systems related to national security due to the risk of the software being accessed by the Russian government.

Mr Martin called Russia a "highly capable cyber threat actor" and said the country had the means "to target UK central government and the UK's critical national infrastructure".

He added that his agency is in talks with Kaspersky to develop a system for reviewing its products for use in Britain.

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"We are in discussions with Kaspersky Lab... about whether we can develop a framework that we and others can independently verify,” Mr Martin said in the letter, which was publicly released.

Kaspersky is the largest Russian software agency operating in the UK.

Its chief executive, Eugene Kaspersky, has strongly denied allegations about the safety of its products or ties to the Russian government, saying it has become a scapegoat in the midst of rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.

In a statement, Kaspersky said that it looked forward to working with the NCSC on the issue.

It comes amid rising concerns about Russian meddling in the affairs of Western nations.

Last month, British prime minister Theresa May launched an attack on Russia for its attempts to “threaten the international order”, in a speech condemning its alleged electoral interference and campaign of cyber espionage. “We know what you’re doing and it won’t succeed,” she warned President Vladimir Putin.

Around 400 million people use Kaspersky products around the world.

The NCSC insisted they were not telling members of the public of companies to stop using the products.

However, on Saturday, it emerged that Barclays has stopped offering free Kaspersky anti-virus products to new customers following the official warning to the UK government.

The bank said the move was a "precautionary decision" in an email to 290,000 online banking customers.

Kaspersky's anti-virus software was banned from US government networks earlier this year on concerns the company has close ties to intelligence agencies in Moscow and that its software could be used to enable Russian spying.

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