Our Take on the Kaspersky “Spy” Controversy

by Roberta Piket on August 24, 2017

in Messages from the Owner, News, Tech Thoughts and Tips

October 2017 EDIT: Since we posted this back in August, new information has come out indicating that Russia has been using Kaspersky software for spying. Whether or not Kaspersky was directly involved or if this effects Kaspersky’s consumer products, is still not known. However, if you prefer to switch to another product, see our recommendation below.
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There have been several news reports discussing possible ties between Kaspersky Labs and Russian intelligence. Each new “revelation” seems to consist of another American government official speculating, without any specifics, that Kaspersky may be doing bad things. Several of our customers have inquired whether we are still comfortable recommending and selling Kaspersky products.

First, there is no evidence that Kaspersky is using its products to spy on behalf of Russia or any other entity. Some of the news reports refer to the fact that Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky Labs, went to a Soviet intelligence school as a teenager. This is essentially the entire case against Kaspersky at this point.

While I, Roberta, am as concerned as anyone about Russian hacking and interference in our last presidential election, there is no evidence that Kaspersky has anything to do with any of this.

Secondly, while it makes sense for federal agencies to be particularly careful about what security products they use, whether foreign or domestic, we believe it is highly unlikely that the Russian government is trying to spy on individuals, who are unlikely to have anything of value to a foreign entity, via Kaspersky’s consumer product offerings.

We don’t see a need for any of our customers to switch at this time. If information comes to light indicating that Kaspersky may be involved in Russian spying, we will reevaluate our position. For now we believe Kaspersky is the most effective consumer anti-virus software available.

If you disagree with our assessment and you prefer to switch to another product, you may consider the highly regarded WebRoot antivirus as an alternative. Of course we can’t guarantee that any company is not involved in corporate malfeasance or spying, but if you decide to purchase WebRoot, we can help you remove Kaspersky and install WebRoot in its place. Regular labor rates will apply.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Kessler September 1, 2017 at 12:42 am

I agree with you about Kaspersky, but I don’t have the same faith in Webroot you do. Maybe it’s because most of my exposure to it has been on client machines where it was not working properly due to a damaged install or had failed to stop significant infections. Neither av-test nor av-comparatives include it in their rankings. I have similar misgivings about PC-Matic.

There’s no profit in it for us IT service providers, but most internet companies (AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner for sure) include some version of either McAfee or Norton free to their subscribers. However, the customer has to know their ISP account ID and password, which many don’t. There are several good free AVs around, too.

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Roberta Piket September 2, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Hi Larry,
Thanks for your comment. My experience with WebRoot has been good both in terms of installation and protection.

Regarding the tests, vendors must volunteer for these tests. My understanding is that WebRoot chose not to participate because the testing methodology doesn’t reflect the effectiveness of its approach to malware prevention (“preventing unauthorized data transmission, combined with protocolling changes and reversing them where possible”).

The post below explains that “the core issue is that WSA looks for active threats rather than all threats, on the basis that a non active or dormant threat is in fact no threat (until it becomes active and then WSA will pounce on it) and therefore it will not detect all of the samples in the test and therefore scores low marks in that aspect.”

https://community.webroot.com/t5/Webroot-SecureAnywhere-Antivirus/Why-Webroot-is-not-present-in-Av-Test-s-tests/td-p/256228

It goes on to state that “WSA has been included in some tests in the area of banking transaction protection & identity protection and has in fact been found to be amongst the very best for protection.” Here’s more info about that:

Webroot SecureAnywhere passes MRG Effitas 2015/16 Banking Certification

For what it’s worth, I’ve seen massively infected computers with McAfee consumer products installed. I never recommend them, although Norton is fine.

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