Confusion hits consumer market over US ban of Kaspersky software

Eugene Kaspersky, Russian antivirus programs developer and chief executive of Russia's Kaspersky Lab, poses for a photo on a balcony at his company's headquarters in Moscow, Russia.(AP)
Updated 14 September 2017
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Confusion hits consumer market over US ban of Kaspersky software

NEW YORK: Worries rippled through the consumer market for antivirus software after the US government banned federal agencies from using Kaspersky Labs software on 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.
Best Buy Co. declined to give details about why it dropped Kaspersky products, saying that it doesn’t comment on contracts with specific vendors. The Minneapolis Star Tribune first reported that Best Buy would stop selling Kaspersky software.
The US Department of Homeland Security cited concerns about possible ties between unnamed Kaspersky officials and the Kremlin and Russian intelligence services. The department also noted that Russian law might compel Kaspersky to assist the government in espionage.
Kaspersky has denied any unethical ties with Russia or any government. It said Wednesday that its products have been sold at Best Buy for a decade. Kaspersky software is widely used by consumers in both free and paid versions, raising the question of whether those users should follow the US government’s lead.
Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, called the US government decision “prudent“; he had argued for such a step in July . But he added by e-mail that “for most everybody else, the software is fine.”
The biggest risk to US government computers is if Moscow-based Kaspersky is subject to “government-mandated malicious update,” Weaver wrote this summer.
Kaspersky products accounted for about 5.5 percent of anti-malware software products worldwide, according to research firm Statista.
Another expert, though, suggested that consumers should also uninstall Kaspersky software to avoid any potential risks. Michael Sulmeyer, director of a cybersecurity program at Harvard, noted that antivirus software has deep access to one’s computer and network.
“Voluntarily introducing this kind of Russian software in a geopolitical landscape where the US-Russia relationship is not good at all, I think would be assuming too much risk,” he said. “There are plenty of alternatives out there.”
Sulmeyer also said retailers should follow Best Buy’s lead and stop selling the software.
Amazon, which sells Kaspersky software, declined to comment. Staples and Office Depot, both of which sell the software, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.
Various US law enforcement and intelligence agencies and several congressional committees are investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Kaspersky said it is not subject to the Russian laws cited in the directive and said information received by the company is protected in accordance with legal requirements and stringent industry standards, including encryption.


France, Saudi Arabia to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

Updated 24 May 2018
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France, Saudi Arabia to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

  • France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris
  • More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally

PARIS: France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris in June to assess humanitarian needs for the country and possibly contribute to reviving U.N.-backed peace talks.
A Saudi-led coalition backed by the West has carried out air strikes against the armed Houthi movement in a war since 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally and unleashed the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the UN says.
"We are currently working on how to organise this conference with our various partners, Yemen and the United Nations," France's foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing on Wednesday.
"This conference should take stock of humanitarian needs, evaluate the assistance provided and the response mechanisms which need to be improved and define humanitarian actions to improve the situation of civilian populations."
The French president's office said the conference would take place at the end of June. A source aware of the plans said it was scheduled for June 27.
Von der Muhll declined to say whether Paris intended to invite representatives of the Iran-aligned Houthis.
"This work, which we want to be collective, can help to recreate the conditions for a resumption of political discussions under the auspices of the United nations," Von der Muhll said in a statement on Tuesday.
It is unclear how this would fit into the UN Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths' efforts. He said in April he wanted to present a plan for negotiations within two months to end the conflict, but warned that any new military offensives could "take peace off the table."
Three rounds of UN-backed peace talks between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, with the last held in Kuwait in August 2016, ended without success. Griffiths began his term in March in a bid by the U.N. to revive the stalled peace process.