Germany’s cybersecurity agency called on users of Kaspersky antivirus software to switch to an alternative over fears the Russian cybersecurity firm could be used to facilitate cyber attacks by the Russian government.
Russia’s military and intelligence activities in Ukraine, and its threats to EU and NATO allies, particularly Germany, mean there is “a considerable risk of a successful IT attack,” the Federal Cyber Security Authority (BSI) said in a statement.
“A Russian IT manufacturer can itself carry out offensive operations, can be forced to attack target systems against its will, or be itself spied on as a victim of a cyber operation without its knowledge, or be misused as a tool for attacks against its own customers,” the agency warned.
Companies and operators of critical infrastructure are particularly vulnerable but individuals could also be hit, the BSI said, inviting anyone in doubt to contact it for advice.
Kaspersky is among the largest vendors of IT security software
Kaspersky Lab was founded in 1997 by Eugene Kaspersky, Natalya Kaspersky, and Alexey De-Monderik; Eugene Kaspersky is currently the CEO. Kaspersky Lab develops and sells antivirus, internet security, password management, endpoint security, and other cybersecurity products and services.
Kaspersky expanded abroad from 2005 to 2010 and grew to $704 million in annual revenues by 2020. According to Gartner, a technological research and consulting firm, Kaspersky Lab is currently the third-largest vendor of consumer IT security software worldwide and the fifth largest vendor of Enterprise Endpoint Protection.
Kaspersky Lab responded to the claims by BSI denying the existence of any link between it and the Kremlin.
“We believe this decision is not based on a technical assessment of Kaspersky products – that we continuously advocated for with the BSI and across Europe – but instead is being made on political grounds,” a statement provided to Euronews Next by the company’s European communications head Stefan Rojacher said.
Russian origins of antivirus software under scrutiny in the U.S.
This is not the first time Kaspersky’s Russian origins have brought the cybersecurity company under scrutiny.
In 2017, Department of Homeland Security officials in the United States ordered government departments and federal agencies to “remove and discontinue present and future use” of Kaspersky products, saying that “the risks presented by Kaspersky-branded products” justified the move.
A Bloomberg Businessweek report on the US government’s decision claimed that Kaspersky had links to Russia’s FSB intelligence agency, and alleged the company had “developed security technology at the spy agency’s behest and worked on joint projects the CEO knew would be embarrassing if made public.”
Germany has in recent years repeatedly accused Russia of cyber espionage attempts.
The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that paralyzed the computer network of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, forcing the entire institution offline for days while it was fixed.