Dutch gov't stops using Russian anti-virus software Kaspersky

The Dutch government will stop using Russian anti-virus software from Kaspersky Lab out of concern that the Kremlin might use it for espionage, Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said in a letter to parliament, NU.nl reports.

Anti-virus software has in-depth access to ICT systems to combat viruses, Grapperhaus explained. Because of this extensive access "there is a risk of digital espionage and sabotage at the central government and the Dutch vital infrastructure", he wrote to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. 

According to the Minister, there are no known cases of Kaspersky software being abused, but it can not be excluded. The security risks apply only to the company's anti-virus software, not its other products. 

In his letter Grapperhaus referred to Russian offensive digital activity which is "aimed, among others, at the Netherlands". He also pointed out Russian legislation that oblige Russian companies to support the Russian intelligence services if they so request. 

There is no direct reason for the government to stop using Kaspersky anti-virus and advise vital companies to do so, a spokesperson for Grapperhaus, Anna Sophia Posthumus, said to NU.nl. "It is about a summary of developments in the field of cyber threats." Posthumus could not say over what period this anti-virus software will be phased out. "That depends on various issues, such as ongoing contracts with Kaspersky and finding and implementing a suitable alternative." 

The government also advises companies and organizations that work in vital sector to stop using Kaspersky's anti-virus software. "It is an explicit recommendation, but we can not enforce it", Posthumus said to the newspaper. The phasing out of the software doesn't apply to smaller governments, such as provincial governments and municipalities. "This choice was made on the basis of a risk assessment", Posthumus said. The risk of espionage is greatest for the national government, supporting companies and vital sectors.

Kaspersky previously stated that the company does not and will not help any government in offensive efforts in the digital domain. A spokesperson told NU.nl that the company will give a response during the course of Tuesday.