Column: Is Russian anti-virus safe to use?

Q: Should I be concerned about using Kaspersky’s anti-virus software, since it’s a Russian company?

A: Choosing a solid security program to protect your computer and personal information has always been a challenge because there are so many options that get high marks.

Now, with all of the global issues and growing concerns about nationalism, there’s an additional issue that many users are contemplating when making a choice: Where is the security software made?

Russia is just one of the many prominent players in the global security software industry, with many of the most popular programs from countries around the world:

  • AVG & Avast – Czech Republic
  • Bitdefender – Romania
  • ESET – Slovakia
  • F-Secure – Finland
  • Kaspersky – Russia
  • Panda – Spain
  • Sophos – UK
  • Trend Micro – Japan
Does geography matter?

In general, just because a security program is owned by a company in another country does not mean it shouldn’t be trusted, especially since countries such as Finland, Japan and the UK are clear allies.

In fact, in light of recent national security disclosures, some users are proclaiming that they are more comfortable with using a security program controlled by a foreign company.

It’s highly unlikely we’ll ever know what relationship or working agreement a particular company has with its own government, so you’ll have to decide if the lack of transparency is disconcerting or not.

We’ve been using and installing Trend Micro’s products for years and have no issue with it being a Japanese company (it was originally created in California and relocated when it acquired a Japanese firm in 1992).

Keep in mind that all of these companies are global players and any evidence that they are working with their own government to disclose user information would all but destroy their businesses.

Trust matters

Because we rely on our security programs to protect us, we have to allow them full access and control over our computers.

This means that they can scan every file we have and keep logs of those files, and, in some cases, send information back to the “mothership” if you choose to participate in their “security networks” as a contributor.

If for any reason you don’t trust a company with that level of intimacy, you shouldn’t use their software.

Kaspersky’s credentials and controversies

Anyone in the information security world knows Eugene Kaspersky and his very impressive credentials. As a teenager, he was studying cryptography in school, and by his mid-20s, he created an anti-virus program to protect his own computer.

His company has also been responsible for uncovering some major cyber-threats over the years.

Unfortunately, since he is a Russian citizen with early ties to the KGB and its replacement (the FSB), he’s always had a cloud of uncertainty over him.

Most recently, a Kaspersky executive Ruslan Stoyanov, head of their investigation unit and a liaison to Russian security services, was arrested and accused of treason by the Russian government. This has added more questions for some users that have the company’s software installed.

While Stoyanov himself is being accused, not the company, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you’re comfortable using their software based on your own evaluations.


Editor’s Note: Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook  or on Twitter, @TheDataDoc.


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