Should you uninstall Kaspersky software?

Q: Should I uninstall Kaspersky anti-virus from my computer?

A recent Wall Street Journal story about a National Security Agency contractor that had classified documents on his home computer and was allegedly targeted because of his use of Kaspersky Lab anti-virus software has once again put the Russian cybersecurity company in the spotlight.

The article reports that the stolen classified files from 2015 included details on how the NSA compromises foreign computer networks, the code used for spying and how the agency defends domestic computer networks.

The theory is that hackers used the file inventory process that Kaspersky anti-virus uses to discover the sensitive files and target the contractor.

Government ban

Software from Kaspersky Lab was removed from the U.S. General Services Administration approved list in July and in September, the Department of Homeland Security ordered federal agencies to stop using any software made by Kaspersky Lab because of concerns about the company’s ties to Russian intelligence.

The founder of the company, Eugene Kaspersky, has long had a cloud of uncertainty over him because of his early ties to the KGB and its replacement, the FSB. As a teenager, he studied cryptography in school and by his mid-20s, he created an anti-virus program to protect his own computer that eventually led to Kaspersky Lab.

This most recent allegation certainly makes using the company’s software even more disconcerting.

Should you remove it?

Despite the company’s repeated denials of any connection to the Russian government, with the plethora of security programs that don’t come with the “Russian baggage,” switching to another program is the safest way to go.

To be realistic, the likelihood that you would somehow become the target of Russian government hackers just because you are using a Kaspersky program is pretty slim, but there’s no reason to take the chance.

Alternative programs

The vast majority of security programs on the market are actually from companies outside of the U.S. For example, popular programs such as AVG & Avast (Czech Republic), Bitdefender (Romania), ESET (Slovakia), F-Secure (Finland), Panda (Spain), Sophos (UK) and Trend Micro (Japan) are all controlled by companies outside the U.S.

Many in the U.S., because of ongoing concerns about the U.S. government’s overreach, have proclaimed their preference to using a program based in another country, especially allies such as Finland, the U.K. and Japan.

Removing Kaspersky Lab products

The standard way of removing programs in Windows is via Start >>> Control Panel >>> Add/Remove Programs, or you can use Kaspersky’s removal tools for either Windows or MacOS.

Advanced Windows users may want to take the additional step of manually scanning the registry to a make sure that all Kaspersky-related keys have been removed.

Mac users can also use the free Dr. Cleaner app to ensure that it’s properly removed as simply dragging it to the trash does not properly remove it. Some programs like Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security can automatically remove other programs, which makes converting a large number of computers more efficient.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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