Kaspersky has launched its free antivirus globally. The antivirus can scan files and emails and protect PCs from malware. The company has been under the scanner of the U.S. government recently because of its Russian origins.
By offering the software for free, the company might have played a master stroke as prohibiting people from downloading it will be hard to implement, especially since it offers free features that competitors such as Avast and Norton do not provide.
The company claims that it will not monetize the freeware by running ads, but instead use the data to improve machine learning for its other offerings. The company did not specify what kind of data it would be collecting though.
Like any free software, it is offering limited features to users — features such as VPN, parental controls and online payment protection are lacking. What you will have though is safe web surfing, safe usage of portable media storage devices, phishing protection and protection against infected files. The company claims that the software can detect cyber threats regardless of their origin or intention. It also says that the freeware i.e. the free software, will not perform user habit tracking or infringe confidentiality. Curiously, it mentions confidentiality i.e. agreed upon protections in the user-agreement, not privacy.
The U.S. Senate has mulled banning Kaspersky’s use by the military. It has been investigated by the FBI for endangering cyber security since the company might be “vulnerable to Russian government influence” according to a summary of the legislation.
According to Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), “ties between Kaspersky Lab and the Kremlin are very alarming.” The bill will need to be passed by the Senate and House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump in order to become law.
Kaspersky is one of the biggest antivirus companies globally. According to Reuters, Russia might actually undertake retaliatory action, if any ban on it was to take place.
There have been no objections about its usage by regular citizens.
While Kaspersky is offering its software for free globally, its Russian origins will cast a shadow over its adoption in America. Lawmakers have in the past raised concerns that the firm’s software might be used by Russia as a backdoor to attack American computer networks especially since many U.S. intelligence agencies claim that Russia hacked into and interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The company has tried to reassure the U.S. government about its credibility with its CEO Eugene Kaspersky offering to appear before the U.S. senate.
While chances are slim that the software might be used for snooping since it is a private company with global offerings, not just focussed on U.S., it is noteworthy that once you install the Kaspersky free antivirus, it will have access to all your files and your web surfing.