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Tech Matters: Kaspersky antivirus to be banned for good. Now what?

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jun 26, 2024
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A sign is seen above the headquarters of Kaspersky Lab in Moscow on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. The cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has denied it is a security threat after the U.S. Commerce Department banned use of its software in the United States. Kaspersky said in a statement that the Commerce Department's decision, announced Thursday, June 20, 2024, would not affect its ability to sell and promote its cyber threat intelligance offerings and training in the U.S.
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Leslie Meredith

For the first time, the U.S. government has banned a foreign-made software, citing a high potential for interference from the Russian government in the products developed by Kaspersky, a well-known provider of antivirus software.

For those who track such things, this should come as no surprise, especially with the presidential election coming this November. Russia was found to have interfered with the 2016 and 2020 elections, and NBC News reported in February that “Russia is already spreading disinformation in advance of the 2024 election, using fake online accounts and bots to damage President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats, according to former U.S. officials and cyber experts.” Any avenue of interference can be considered fair game — including computer software.

Kaspersky is a Russian company best known for its Bitdefender antivirus software. In 2017, its software was deemed an unacceptable risk to national security and was banned for use by federal agencies in 2018. Four years later, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission added Kasperky to its blacklist. Still, the public could use the software. However, this will begin to change next month.

Last week, the Department of Commerce issued a phased ban. Beginning July 20, Kaspersky products can no longer be sold to U.S. residents or integrated into third-party products. On Sept. 29, all reselling, existing integrations and licensing must stop. Kaspersky’s updates and monitoring will no longer run in the U.S. on any devices.

If you’re interested in the details of the decision, the Bureau of Industry and Security, part of the Department of Commerce, has set up a dedicated website that includes the investigation documentation. The main reasons for concern are twofold. First, Russia could compel Kaspersky to turn over sensitive data about its American customers. Second, the software could be used as a vehicle to spread malware that could do all kinds of things such as logging keystrokes, stealing data and more.

In summary, the BIS said, “The manipulation of Kaspersky software, including in U.S. critical infrastructure, can cause significant risks of data theft, espionage, and system malfunction. It can also risk the country’s economic security and public health, resulting in injuries or loss of life.”

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to remove Kaspersky from your computer now. Here’s how to do it. First, open the “Start” menu by clicking on the Windows icon in the bottom-left corner of your screen or by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard. In the Start menu, type “Control Panel” into the search bar and select the Control Panel app from the search results. This will open the Control Panel window.

In the Control Panel, look for the “Programs” category and click on “Programs and Features.” This will display a list of all the programs currently installed on your computer. Scroll through the list to find the software you want to uninstall. Once you locate it, click on the program to select it, and then click on the “Uninstall” button that appears at the top of the list.

A prompt will appear asking you to confirm that you want to uninstall the program. Click “Yes” to proceed. The antivirus software’s uninstallation wizard will then launch. Follow the on-screen instructions provided by the wizard to complete the uninstallation process. Once the uninstallation is complete, you may be prompted to restart your computer.

Microsoft’s built-in security program should be sufficient and is available for Windows 10 and 11. It includes Microsoft Defender Antivirus that offers real-time, always-on antivirus protection. To make sure it’s turned on, open the Settings menu by simultaneously pressing the Windows and I keys. Navigate to “Privacy & Security” and then select “Windows Security.” Click on “Open Windows Security” and then go to “Virus & threat protection.” Click on “Manage settings” and turn on the “Real-time protection” toggle.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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