The British government has issued a warning about the security risks of using a Russian anti-virus software.

The National Cyber Security Centre is to write to all government departments warning against using the products for systems related to cyber security.

The UK cyber-security agency say the software could be exploited by the Russian government.

Security firm Kaspersky Labs, accused in the US of being used by the Russian state for espionage, denied any wrongdoing.

Kaspersky Labs is widely used by consumers and businesses all over the world, including the UK government, are being advised to stop using the software, in case of a breach.

Barclays axes deal

Officials stress they are not recommending members of the public or companies stop using Kaspersky products, which are used by about 400 million people globally.

Barclays has stopped offering free Kaspersky software to customers as a “precautionary decision”.

On Saturday, the UK bank emailed 290,000 online banking customers who had downloaded Kaspersky over the past decade.

A Barclays spokesman said: “Even though this new guidance isn’t directed at members of the public, we have taken the decision to withdraw the offer.”

For it to work, anti-virus software like that sold by Kaspersky Labs requires extensive access to files on computers and networks to scan for malicious code.

It also requires the ability to communicate back to the company in order to receive updates and share data on what it finds.

However, the concern is that this could be used by the Russian state for espionage.

Officials say the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)’s decision is based on a risk analysis, rather than evidence that such espionage has already taken place.

In the new government guidance, Ian Levy, NCSC’s technical director, said: “Given we assess the Russians do cyber-attacks against the UK for reasons of state, we believe some UK government and critical national systems are at increased risk.”

It comes amid heightened concern about Russian activity against the UK.
Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May warned the Russian state was acting against the UK’s national interest in cyberspace.

Following her warning, Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the NCSC, said Russia had targeted British infrastructure.

Kaspersky have faced several claims over security.

It responded to one claim, that it downloaded classified US material from a home computer in the US, by presenting a detailed explanation of what took place.

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