US government bans Kaspersky antivirus software - what you need to know

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The U.S. government has announced an upcoming ban of Kaspersky’s antivirus software that will go into effect next month.

As reported by The Hacker News, this “first of its kind” ban will prohibit the Russian company from directly or even indirectly selling its security software in the country. However, it also extends to Kaspersky’s affiliates, subsidiaries and parent companies.

In a press release announcing the ban, the U.S Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry & Security explained that the company’s “continued operations in the United States presented a national security risk-due to the Russian Government’s offensive cyber capabilities and capacity to influence or direct Kaspersky’s operations.”

At the same time, Kaspersky has been added to the U.S. government’s Entity List as a result of its "cooperation with Russian military and intelligence authorities in support of the Russian Government's cyber intelligence objectives." Other companies on this list include Huawei and DJI; the former's products are banned for sale in the U.S., while a ban on DJI drones recently passed the House.

This isn’t the first time the U.S. government has gone after the 26-year-old cybersecurity firm. Back in 2017, Kaspersky’s security software was banned from being used by government employees on federal networks, once again over national security concerns. Then almost five years later, the company was added to the FCC’s “Covered List” of companies that pose an “unacceptable risk to the national security” of the United States.

In response, a Kaspersky spokesperson provided the following statement to Tom's Guide:

“Kaspersky believes that the Department of Commerce made its decision based on the present geopolitical climate and theoretical concerns, rather than on a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services. Kaspersky does not engage in activities which threaten U.S. national security and, in fact, has made significant contributions with its reporting and protection from a variety of threat actors that targeted U.S. interests and allies. The company intends to pursue all legally available options to preserve its current operations and relationships.” 

What does this mean for Kaspersky customers

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Beginning on July 20, American businesses and consumers will no longer be able to purchase Kaspersky’s antivirus and other security software. However, existing customers will still be able to receive updates until September 29.

If you’re a Kaspersky customer, you have 100 days to find a suitable alternative. We haven’t heard anything yet about refunds for those with annual plans but if the ban does go into effect, it’s likely the company will announce something along these lines.

Kaspersky’s antivirus has long been considered some of the best antivirus software due to its excellent malware protection, light system impact and included extras. If this ban does go into effect, we’ll be updating all of our antivirus and security software guides accordingly.

For now though, Kaspersky users should be looking for alternatives just in case. While we highly recommend Norton 360 and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, there are plenty of other antivirus software suites to consider. 

If you use Windows, Microsoft’s built-in Windows Defender antivirus is a great free option and if you use Mac, Apple also includes its own XProtect antivirus software with macOS. 

On mobile, Google Play Protect can help secure the best Android phones but there aren’t any iPhone antivirus apps due to Apple’s malware scanning restrictions. However, Intego Mac Internet Security X9 and Intego Mac Premium Bundle X9 (both featured in our best Mac antivirus software guide) can scan an iPhone or iPad for malware when either device is connected to a Mac with a USB cable.

We’ll be following the Kaspersky ban closely, so stay tuned for the latest updates.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.