Government issues antivirus national security warning amid Russian cyber security fears

first_imgGovernment departments have been told not to use antivirus software made by technology  firms linked to Russia amid concerns for national security and state secrets.In a letter to Whitehall chiefs, Ciaran Martin, head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said Russia could use antivirus software to “target UK central Government and the UK’s critical national infrastructure”.The move prompted Barclays to email 290,000 customers  to announce that it was no longer offering free antivirus products made by Kaspersky Lab, the largest Russian antivirus company operating in the UK, to new customers.The bank said the move was a “precautionary measure” and advised those with the software already installed to take “no action” as there was nothing to suggest there was any need to stop using the product.Mr Martin’s warning said that there were “obvious risks around foreign ownership” of companies that produce antivirus programs for Whitehall departments.Describing Russia as a “highly capable cyber threat actor”, he added that it uses cyberspace for “espionage, disruption and influence operations” and was capable of targeting Britain’s “critical national infrastructure”. Mr Martin has previously warned that Russian hackers have targeted the UK energy network, telecoms and the media in the past year.His latest letter, which was agreed with MI5, said that most people and companies in the UK were not under threat of state-backed cyber attacks, but instead were under a constant threat from cyber criminal gangs.“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 attention today, it is our aim to enable departments to make informed, risk-based decisions on (their) choice of antivirus 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.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Russia was accused of meddling in the 2016 US election using hackers and fake news. Meanwhile MPs have questioned whether Moscow has sought to interfere in UK elections and the Brexit referendum.Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May used a keynote speech to tell Russian president Vladimir Putin that the international community was aware of his country’s efforts to spread fake news in an attempt to “sow discord in the West”.center_img The NCSC is in discussions with Kaspersky Lab, to try to develop checks to prevent “transfer of UK data to the Russian state,” Mr Martin added. The email from Barclays said: “The UK Government has been advised to remove any Russian products from all highly sensitive systems classified as secret or above. We’ve made the precautionary decision to no longer offer Kaspersky software to new users. However, there’s nothing to suggest that customers need to stop using Kaspersky.”It added: “At this stage there is no action for you to take. It’s important that you continue to protect yourself with antivirus software.”A Barclays spokesperson added: “Barclays treats the security of our customers very seriously. Even though this new guidance isn’t directed at members of the public, we have taken the decision to withdraw the offer of Kaspersky software from our customer website.” A spokesman for Kaspersky said: “We are disappointed Barclays has decided to discontinue offering Kaspersky Lab antivirus to new customers.”It’s very important to note that the NCSC is not encouraging consumers or businesses against using Kaspersky Lab software.”​last_img