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Kaspersky denies its anti-virus software is used for Russian espionage, launches transparency initiative

Image credit: DT

Anti-virus creators Kaspersky Lab is launching a “transparency initiative” as an attempt to combat concerns that the Russian government is using the company’s software as backdoor to conduct espionage operations.

In a statement Kaspersky said it would submit the source code of its software and future product updates for review by “the broader information-security community and other stakeholders.”

It also vowed to have outside parties review other aspects of its business, including software development.

“We have no political ties to any government but are proud to collaborate with the authorities of many countries,” it said.

Reviews of the software, which is used on some 400 million computers worldwide, will begin by the first quarter of next year.

The company did not name the outside reviewers, but said in a statement that it would soon announce parties with “strong credentials in software security and assurance testing for cyber-security products.”

Kaspersky has faced intense scrutiny for most of the past year after the US government said that it cooperates with Russian spy agencies. It was eventually banned from being installed on any US government computers.

Kaspersky has repeatedly denied the allegations and said that it leaves no backdoors open in its software for third parties.

The Trump administration’s decision to ban the software represented a sharp response to what US intelligence agencies have described as a national security threat posed by Russia in cyberspace, following a US election year marred by allegations that Moscow weaponized the internet in an attempt to influence its outcome.

Chief Executive Officer Eugene Kaspersky said in a statement that he believed the steps announced on Monday would help restore trust in his company.

“We want to show how we’re completely open and transparent,” he said. “We’ve nothing to hide.”

The company said it would open “transparency centers” in Asia, Europe and the United States where customers, governments and others can access results of the outside reviews and discuss any concerns about the security of Kaspersky products.

It also said it would expand a program where it pays independent security researchers to find security vulnerabilities in its products, boosting the maximum award size to $100,000 from $5,000.

In July Trump briefly suggested forming a cyber-security unit with Russia before quickly backtracking stating that he did not think it could happen, hours after his proposal was harshly criticised by Republicans who said Moscow could not be trusted. 

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