The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) has recommended avoiding the use of the Russian company Kaspersky’s antivirus and using alternative products in view of the considerable risk of a cyberattack by the Russian authorities.

“The conduct of the Russian military and/or intelligence forces, as well as the threats expressed by the Russian side in the course of the current war conflict against the EU, NATO and Germany are associated with a considerable risk of a cyber attack,” the BSI warns in a statement.

A Russian IT manufacturer “may itself carry out offensive operations, be forced against its will to attack target systems, be spied on without its knowledge as a victim of a cyber operation or be misused as a tool for attacks against its own customers,” it argues.

The BSI stresses that especially companies and authorities with special security interests as well as operators of critical infrastructures can be threatened.

The German cybersecurity authority recommends companies and other organizations to carefully plan and carry out the replacement of essential elements of their IT security infrastructure. Disconnecting IT security products and in particular anti-virus programs without any preparation would mean possible unprotected exposure to attacks from the Internet, warns the BSI.

Switching to other products is associated with a temporary loss of convenience, functionality and security, acknowledges the cybersecurity authority, which recommends making an individual assessment and weighing up the current situation and, if necessary, seeking advice from BSI-certified IT security service providers.

The German cybersecurity authority, for its part, offers advice to those affected, who can also seek assistance from other competent authorities. This is not the first time this has happened. In 2017, the then president of the United States vetoed the use of software from the company responsible for Kaspersky in his executive on the grounds that it was linked to the Kremlin. Something the company has evidently rejected before.

The company, in its blog, has responded to the BSI’s warning. They claim that this decision “is not based on a technical assessment of Kaspersky’s products” and that it stems from “political motives”. They are willing to work with the BSI to “clarify all the necessary points” that have prompted the BSI’s decision and “other regulators”.

They advocate “peaceful dialogue” as the only instrument to resolve conflicts, expressing that “war is not good for anyone”. They also recall that the company has relocated its data processing infrastructure “to Switzerland”, a country where, according to the company, “malicious and suspicious files voluntarily shared by users of Kaspersky products in Europe” are processed.

The BSI’s warning comes on top of the European Union’s crackdown on Russian companies and media. In recent weeks, both the EU and other companies such as Google have banned RT and Sputnik from broadcasting in Europe, two of Russia’s leading Kremlin-linked propaganda channels. In addition, other services such as Spotify or Twitter have left the country in the face of Putin’s censorship.

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