Most computers are pre-installed with a antivirus protection subscription. Although the free subscription usually lasts only a month and typically seeks to entice a customer to purchase the program, antivirus protection is actually quite important. While scrolling through the comments on a controversial Facebook post, checking e-mail, and browsing “the Google” for memes, antivirus software actively protects against hundreds of attempted attacks or breaches against a system. Fortunately, a variety of free and capable antivirus software programs exist online (Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast, etc.), and customers are able to protect their systems without additional costs.
Antivirus software is structured to know everything about a computer. Once installed, it is granted access to every crevice of a computer’s registry. It is not often antivirus software is equated with security breaches. It is even less often that antivirus software is equated with cyber espionage
However, this has become the case for Kaspersky Labs, Inc.
Kaspersky Labs is a Moscow-based computer security company. It boasts a wide variety of products and services, but is most known for its antivirus software. Kaspersky products are sold and disturbed throughout the United States and, until recently, was even used by the government. Kaspersky is widely considered to be at the forefront of cybersecurity technology. Despite its advanced mechanism for detecting threats, the Russian company is cloaked in a shroud of doubt.
Why? It is speculated that Kaspersky has backdoor ties to Russian hackers. Its founder, Eugene Kaspersky, recevied his high school education at a cyrptology institution sponsored by the former KGB. Kaspersky had a stint creating software for the Soviet government. Don't be led to a conclusion, however, There's no definitive proof that Kaspersky's company colludes with Mother Russia. Instead, consider these cases:
1) Israeli intelligence actually tracked Russian hackers using vulnerabilities in Kaspersky antivirus software. The Russians were searching for U.S. secrets. Now, the initial intrusion was discovered nearly two years ago, but was brought to the discussion table when an NSA employee made a clumsy mistake. The employee, wanting to continue work at home, put sensitive information on his or her computer. The employee's computer was running software from Kaspersky Labs. Russian hackers were able to locate these improperly stored files on the contractor's computer and steal them. Kaspersky denies involvement.
2) Legislation is swirling around Congress to essentially ban agencies and the military from using Kaspersky software. A trifecta of prominent U.S. intelligence officials all agreed that they would not be comfortable operating their organizations with Kaspersky on any system. Eugene Kaspersky vehemently opposes these opinions. He argues that U.S. policymakers and officials are letting politics cloud their judgement instead of simply using the best end-point security products on the market. But don't be fooled -- Kaspersky maintains a very high reputation among cybersecurity professionals. To reiterate, there is no solid evidence of Kaspersky-Russian collusion, and its quite easy to be swayed by the current political and social climate of U.S. politics.
3) Here is where things become shades of grey. Kaspersky Labs is physically based on Russia, so it is obviously obligated to follow Russian telecommunications law. And it is precisely those laws that are raising eyebrows. Kaspersky is required to aide the FSB in any operation, and the FSB can assign agents to work in or with Kaspersky. Telecommunications law also requires that Kaspersky must install interception equipment that would allow the FSB to monitor traffic. Now, because Kaspersky's data servers reside in Russia, that means U.S. data is flowing through these Russian laws. Alternatively, this relationship is not strikingly odd. It is not strange for communication companies to work with their respective governments. The U.S. has similar regulations on metadata.
Ultimately, any software that serves as an apparatus for hacking shouldn't be used in the government. On the other hand, NSA employees shouldn't be taking work home. This Kaspersky-gate scare won't go away, and surely more information will surface regarding the true nature of the Kaspersky-Russian relationship. Until then, go update your antivirus software. I recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. If you have a mac, I am sorry. Avast is nice.
If you've read this far, I'd like to recommend another cyber hygiene action to take. CCleaner is an excellent tool for cleaning up your computer files and registry. Your computer voluntarily stores an incredible amount of unwanted files and data just by browsing the internet. CCleaner helps you remove this unnecessary information and free some space. It's free to download, and from what I know, isn't linked to the Russian government.