The National Cyber Security Centre has warned all government departments in the UK against using Kaspersky Lab products due to the company’s Russian origins.
The National Cyber Security Centre believes that Russia may use Kaspersky Lab products and antivirus software to target the UK and its critical infrastructure.
In a letter to government agencies, Ciaran Martin, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has, without expressly naming Kaspersky Lab, warned such agencies not to choose ‘a Russia-based AV company’ as doing so would put national security at risk.
Martin said that even though a majority of UK citizens and businesses are not directly targeted by the Russian state, government departments and critical infrastructure firms face more risks every day and as such, should avoid using software that has origins in Russia.
He added that it is possible for Russia to access information stored by government agencies and critical infrastructure firms and hence, agencies must not choose Kaspersky Lab products in case it is assessed that access to the information by the Russian state would be a risk to national security.
‘The NCSC advises that Russia is a highly capable cyber threat actor which uses cyber as a tool of statecraft. This includes espionage, disruption and influence operations. Russia has the intent to target UK central government and the UK’s critical national infrastructure,’ said Martin.
‘However, the overwhelming majority of UK individuals and organisations are not being actively targeted by the Russian state, and are far more likely to be targeted by cyber criminals. In drawing this guidance to (department heads’) attention today, it is our aim to enable departments to make informed, risk-based decisions on (their) choice of AV provider.
‘To that end, we advise that where it is assessed that access to the information by the Russian state would be a risk to national security, a Russia-based AV company should not be chosen,’ he added.
This is the first time that the National Cyber Security Centre has decided to comment on the possibility that Kaspersky Lab may be working with the Russian government behind closed doors and may offer state-sponsored hackers a window to access the UK government’s digital infrastructure.
Back in July, the NCSC had denied reports that it never certified software or other products from Kaspersky Lab, stating that it was not a regulator and hence didn’t ban any products. However, it said that Kaspersky Lab was welcome to participate in NCSC certifications.
In September this year, the US Department of Homeland Security asked all US government departments and agencies to remove or replace Kaspersky Lab products and software within 90 days.
In a press release, the DHS said that Kaspersky anti-virus products and solutions provide broad access to files and elevated privileges on the computers on which the software is installed, and this, in turn, offers cyber criminals the opportunity to compromise those information systems.
‘The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks.
‘The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security,’ it added.