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Do Russian ties mean I should uninstall Kaspersky antivirus software?

Eugene Kaspersky, Russian antivirus programs developer and chief executive of Russia's Kaspersky Lab, watches trough a window decorated with programming code's symbols at his company's headquarters in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, July 1, 2017. Kaspersky says he's ready to have his company's source code examined by U.S. government officials to help dispel long-lingering suspicions about his company's ties to the Kremlin. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Q: Should I uninstall Kaspersky antivirus 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 antivirus 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 antivirus uses to discover the sensitive files and target the contractor.

Government ban

In July of this year, software from Kaspersky Lab was removed from the U.S. General Services Administration’s approved list 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 and given 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 (U.K.) and Trend Micro (Japan) are all controlled by foreign companies.

Many in our country, because of on-going concerns about our own 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 DrCleaner app to ensure that it’s properly removed as simply dragging it to the trash does not properly remove it.

Some programs, such as Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security, can automatically remove other programs, which makes converting a large number of computers more efficient.

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