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6 Apr 2022

Is Kaspersky antivirus safe to use?

In light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the country's hacking history, we explain what you need to know about Russian antivirus service Kaspersky

The UK's official cybersecurity body has updated its advice on the implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, specifically around the use of Kaspersky antivirus.

The key thing for UK consumers to know is that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) believes it's highly unlikely that individuals who use Kaspersky antivirus will be targeted directly. Although there are some exceptions for those who do activities specifically against the interests of the Russian state.

So whether you use Kaspersky antivirus products on your own computer is really down to your own personal view and assessments of your own risks. Read on for more information on what's been said and why Which? hasn't awarded Kaspersky antivirus Best Buy status, even though its software performs very well in our independent lab tests.

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What is the official advice about Kaspersky?

The NCSC is an arm of the UK's intelligence agency GCHQ. It provides guidance for businesses and individuals on all matters cybersecurity. It hasn't publicly weighed in on the issue of using Russian products since 2017, and back then the advice was for specific government departments working in security to not use such products.

Writing last week, the NCSC said the situation has 'materially changed'. The main concern is around the way in which Russian companies are obliged to assist the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) 'and the pressure to do so may increase in a time of war'.

While it says there is no evidence that Russia has exercised this so far during the conflict to specifically target UK companies or individuals, it also says that 'absence of evidence is not evidence of absence'. You can find more information on the NCSC website.

What you need to know if you use Kaspersky antivirus

Kaspersky antivirus

The NCSC gave the following advice to individual consumers: 'It almost certainly remains the case that nearly allu202findividualsu202fin the UK (and many enterprises) areu202fnotu202fgoing to be targeted by Russian cyber attack, regardless of whether they use Russian products and services.'

The organisation added that the main risk for users is that, should sanctions be extended to Russian brands operating in the UK, the software could simply stop working or updating. However, this hasn't yet been mooted so isn't a current concern.

Kaspersky antivirus: what Which? has done

When we published our latest antivirus reviews in March 2022, two high-scoring Kaspersky products were eligible for Best Buy status. However, we chose not to award the products this badge.

Despite providing excellent protection from malware, we've decided that it wouldn't be right to unequivocally recommend Kaspersky software, in light of the situation in Ukraine and the worsening relations between Russia and the West.

Like the NCSC, we aren't currently recommending that existing Kaspersky customers should stop using its software. We also aren't advising that people don't buy Kaspersky products.

Our stance is that, at this present time, we are happier to recommend other equally good options instead. We will continue to review this decision.

If you currently have a Kaspersky subscription that you're no longer sure about but don't want to pay for another antivirus suite, choose a free program instead.

Our round-up of the best antivirus from our tests reveals some good free options. While not Best Buys, they offer excellent protection without you having to spend a penny.