AP file photo
In this Saturday, July 1, 2017, file photo, an employee of Kaspersky Lab works on computers at the company’s headquarters in Moscow. Worries rippled through the consumer market for antivirus software after the U.S. government banned federal agencies from using Kaspersky Lab software Wednesday. Best Buy said it will no longer sell software made by the Russian company, although one security researcher said most consumers don’t need to be alarmed.
Across West Virginia University’s campuses, about 17,000 computers are protected by the anti-virus software Kaspersky, a company based in Russia which has recently found itself in the spotlight for intelligence agencies fearing its connection with the Russian government.
The federal government has started wiping the software from its every computer in fear the Russian government could compel the company to let it access secure information, according to a New York Times report. WVU also started the process of finding a new anti-virus software on Friday, and hopes to select a new software by next summer.
“There are lots of politics at play here, but the fact is that, from a technical standpoint, it’s a great product and it does what we need it to do,” said Vicki Smith, spokeswoman for the school’s Information Technology Services. “There are a number of independent testing labs that have rated this product very highly.”
Students and faculty members using university computers needn’t worry that the software could compromise the security of their personal information, Smith said. After to speaking to law enforcement, WVU shut down a backdoor through which the school’s information could be shared with the company’s headquarters in Moscow.
There was no specific incident that prompted WVU to close the backdoor to Kaspersky, Smith said. In July, the company was removed from two federal lists of companies the government can buy technology equipment from, according to a Reuters report.
WVU posted the request for proposals to find a new software company on Friday, but started the process of crafting the request around the time Kaspersky was removed from the list, Smith said. Kaspersky would be able to submit a bid, and could be selected as the winner bidder as long as it met all of the requirements and was added back to the approved list again. That list is maintained by the General Services Administration.
Although the federal government acted swiftly to start wiping the software off its computers, the software will stay on WVU computers through next summer.
“It would be dangerous to remove anti-virus protection from 17,000 computers, and it’s not a quick and easy thing to turn the ship,” Smith said. “It’s a massive enterprise.”
The school’s cyber-liability insurance requires the school maintain proof that its computers are protected by anti-virus software. In June of 2017, more than 200,000 virus files were quarantined by the software, according to data from ITS.
Information technology analyst Gartner has ranked Kaspersky as one of the industry’s leaders in anti-virus software for six years running. The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Eugene Kaspersky, has defended his company from rumors of interference coming the Kremlin and is planning to testify before Congress later this month, according to Reuters.
Marshall University, West Virginia’s second largest university, does not use the Kaspersky software, according to spokeswoman Ginny Painter.
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