Businesses running a popular anti-virus software could be putting themselves at risk from Russian hackers, says a Shropshire IT specialist.

The widely used security suite from Kaspersky Lab is currently at the heart of global controversy after US Government agencies were banned from using it and Israeli intelligence services revealed their belief that it had been compromised by the Russian state.

Chris Pallett, MD of Telford-based Bespoke Computing, said Kaspersky, which is a Russian company, was now the subject of international suspicion.

He explained: “This is a well known brand of security software that hundreds of businesses and individuals will have installed on their computers. Often it comes from PC vendors pre-installed. What we now know is that there are huge question marks around whether Russian hackers, possibly working for the state, have inserted their own tools and backdoors into the software.

Kaspersky denies that it has ever allowed this, but whether it knew about it or not, the Israelis say they found hacking tools on Kaspersky’s internal networks and that raises all kinds of questions for anyone using this software, especially in these times of serious threat from ransomware and other unpleasant software.”

The United States Department of Homeland Security has banned Kaspersky’s products from all government use and has been pressing US firms to move away from them as well.

Chris added: “Having a good security product on your computers and wider network is essential, so no-one should try to just uninstall Kaspersky products but instead seek proper advice.

Anti-virus and similar software installs at a very deep level on a machine, so fully removing it can be complex and a risk to the computer’s integrity if not done properly. It also needs replacing with a trusted alternative at the same time, to ensure there is no period of exposure. Hackers can get into an unprotected machine in mere seconds of it going online and once that happens your entire network is at serious risk.”

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