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Popular antivirus software allegedly tied to Russian intelligence

U.S. government agencies have been purging Kaspersky anti-virus software from their computers since mid-September. (WBMA)

Jared Sluss and Aiden Ryan are studying together at the Red Cat Coffee House for their upcoming college exam. Both are using laptops with out-of-date anti-virus programs. But Jared has no plans to buy Kaspersky software in the wake of the company’s alleged ties to Russian intelligence.

“I guess it’s more of a protectionist mindset,” Sluss said. “I just wouldn’t take the chance. Because if it ends up being true, then I have to re-download something else and have to pay extra money for it. So, it really comes down to why take that chance?"

Aiden says she’ll do more research before considering Kaspersky software for her computer.

“If I see there is some very strong evidence for them being Russian intelligence, then I probably wouldn’t and would probably just keep no software on my computer,” she said.

U.S. government agencies purging Kaspersky software from computers

U.S. government agencies have been purging Kaspersky anti-virus software from their computers since mid-September. That’s after the Department of Homeland Security said it’s “concerned about ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence.”

The agency said: “The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products directly implicates U.S. national security.”

Major retailers take action

Right now, you can buy Kaspersky software through Amazon.com, or directly from the company’s website. We picked up this Kaspersky software at a local Walmart. But in recent months, Best Buy, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples and Target have either stopped selling or are phasing out Kaspersky products.

Kaspersky claims to have 400 million users. So, what should you do if you have the company’s software on your computer?

Pablo Garcia is a cyber security expert and CEO of FFRI North America.

“Unless you’re a defense contractor working for the DOD, military, or handling classified information, I don’t think you need to be too concerned running Kaspersky on your local desktop,” Garcia said.

“It’s concerning and thankful that I haven’t bought into that program,” Sluss said.

Kaspersky Lab’s response

Here’s what Kaspersky Lab said about the controversy:

“Kaspersky Lab does not have any inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia, and has never helped any government with its cyber espionage efforts.”

The company added, “The only conclusion seems to be that the company remains caught in the middle of an ongoing geopolitical fight.”

Meantime, Kaspersky’s CEO Eugene Kaspersky, recently tweeted that he visited 11 countries telling customers that his company isn’t spying.

Should you remove Kaspersky software from your computer?

Garcia says that’s a matter of personal choice.

If you do want to uninstall it, here’s how:

On an Apple computer, dump in in the trash and empty the trash.

For a PC with Windows software, click uninstall program.

It’s that’s simple.

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