Belgian government still using vulnerable Russian anti-virus software, warn experts

Security experts have warned against Belgium’s continued use of Russian-developed anti-virus software Kaspersky, over fears that the software may contain vulnerabilities that may be exploited by the Russian government, according to Belgian newspaper De Morgen.

The longer Belgium waits to take action, the greater the risk, cyber expert Bart Preneel told De Morgen.

“While all neighbouring countries are warning against the antivirus software of the Russian company Kaspersky, our country is hesitating. The risk has only increased since the war,” the expert said.

Across Europe, major users of the anti-virus software, which was once regarded as one of the best antivirus software on the market, have begun to ditch the software over serious security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At great cost, the Italian Government has already dropped all of its contracts with the company. In Belgium, the political party New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) has opted to remove the software from over 500 party computers over security concerns.

The Dutch Government has banned the use of the software since 2018, over fears that Kaspersky would be forced to comply with orders given by the Kremlin. German and French cybersecurity agencies have both publicly advised against the use of the software, which it views as potentially exploitable.

Kaspersky’s main research and development remains in Moscow and some experts fear that the Russian government may force the company to divulge user data. The software has, as of yet, not been demonstrated to be harmful, but still poses a risk due to the geopolitical situation.

Despite security concerns about the use of the software, the Belgian Federal Government has still not banned the use of the antivirus software for state affairs. 

Calls are already rising on the Federal Government to get serious on cybersecurity, and it has already committed to spending €110 million on improving security infrastructure. Nevertheless, Belgian politicians are pressuring De Croo and his cabinet to review its use of leaky software and hardware.

“It is incomprehensible that our country is so nonchalant when it comes to cybersecurity and does not send out any warning to companies and their own services,” said N-VA politician Michael Freilich.

Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne had previously warned that such controls on the use of foreign equipment would amount to “protectionism”. The government is instead looking to implement new legislation to check whether foreign investments in strategic sectors of the economy pose security risks.

De Morgen states that the Kaspersky software is extensively used within the Belgian police force, and there are no official statistics on how many licences are held by government ministries.



© BELGA PHOTO (BARRENA / AFP) Visitors at Kaspersky Lab on the opening day of the MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona on February 28, 2022



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