Germany’s information technology authorities have warned that antivirus software from Russian cyber-security firm Kaspersky could be used to spy on users throughout the world. The attack on Ukraine has renewed fears of Russian cyber-warfare among NATO allies. The Kremlin is already accused of carrying out multiple cyber-attacks against western interests every year, but the latest advisory from the German authorities now suggests that Moscow could now also use the country’s technology companies to carry out cyber-warfare against opposition voices within the country and beyond.

Kaspersky Lab is one of the leading cyber-security firms, and its consumer IT security software and enterprise endpoint solutions have millions of users worldwide. Headquartered in Moscow, the company has often had to deal with security concerns from the U.S. and other western cyber-security agencies about possible espionage. Yet, despite repeated warnings and advisories against its products, Kaspersky has not only managed to hold its own in an exceedingly competitive business, but it also continues to remain one of the leading names in the industry around the world.

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The German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) has issued a warning about the Russian government possibly using Kaspersky security software to launch cyberattacks against western interests. The agency warned that the software could be used for eavesdropping and espionage purposes against organizations and individuals. Thanks to the heightened threat perception, the BSI advises people against using Kaspersky antivirus and urging them to replace all software distributed by the company with alternative apps from non-Russian vendors. According to a statement from the BSI, Russian IT companies could carry out espionage activities themselves or be forced to comply with the Russian government against their will.

Kaspersky Denies All Allegations

Hacker Creative Commons

Hacker Creative Commons

There are also suggestions that Russian state-sponsored hackers could surreptitiously use Kaspersky software to attack or spy on their western targets. “Companies and authorities with special security interests and operators of critical infrastructures are particularly at risk,” the statement said. In addition, the BSI further noted that individual customers might not be the primary targets of the Russian state in this case. However, they could also become victims of collateral damage.

In a statement following the German advisory, Kaspersky vehemently denied all allegations and insisted that it is a privately-owned firm with no ties to the Russian government. It further accused the BSI of mounting a baseless and politically-motivated attack. However, despite its denial, the BSI warning has real consequences for the company. Following the warning, Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt soccer club terminated a sponsorship agreement with Kaspersky, and more such actions by other organizations could be likely in the coming days.