Russian Products Suspected of Collecting Data on Users

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WESLACO – A popular anti-virus maker is receiving heavy scrutiny from the Department of Homeland Security.

The federal agency is recommending other agencies stop using the security software because of its suspected Russian ties.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS found two school districts in Region One that use the program.

The Texas Education Agency issued the alert Oct. 30 to all school districts and charter schools in the state. It warns against using AO Kaspersky Lab products, like their popular anti-virus. Any campuses using it will have to remove and discontinue its use.

Out of Region One school districts, two are using products which the state is aware the federal government mistrusts. The cyber alert states DHS is concerned with ties between Kaspersky Lab officials and that of the Russian government.

Russian law could allow Russian intelligence or government agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky Lab. That's what the DHS note explains.

Former FBI Analyst, Ray Mendoza, says the link was suspected for years.

"It's been observed by many professionals out there that the anti-virus is collecting information about its users," he said. "The problem is we don't really know what kind of information it’s collecting about its users because it encrypts that data and it's sending it. We're able to track it, and it's sending it to a Russian-associated IP address."

School districts, like other consumers, use this product. In the Rio Grande Valley, Donna ISD purchased Kaspersky anti-virus in 2012 for about $30,000. Laredo ISD is also using Kaspersky products, investing about $40,000 in the process.

Both districts said they’re aware of the changes required by the state.

"So, there's a lot of uncertainties, and definitely a concern as a regular private citizen, but more so, from a government security point of view,” said Mendoza.

What no one knows is what information was collected and used.

DHS gave a 90-day deadline for federal agencies to remove the program since the day of the binding operational directive was issued.

Laredo ISD told CHANNEL 5 NEWS they have plans to allow the contract to expire at the end of the year. Donna ISD tells us they are seeking legal counsel on how to proceed.

A security expert said Kaspersky products already come installed in some computers you purchase. But there is an easy way to remove it.

Go to your computer's control panel; select applications and programs. Right-click on the application and select remove.

There are paid and free programs to provide internet security. A security expert said Windows computers are more vulnerable than Apple computers.


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