What you need to know about the Kaspersky ban

Kaspersky Anti Virus Android

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

TL;DR

  • The Biden administration, using powers created by the Trump administration, will ban Kaspersky software in the United States.
  • The reasoning behind the ban is Kaspersky’s ties to the Russian government and the security threat that suggests.
  • New sales are likely to end in July, and current users will need to stop using it by the end of September.

Today, the United States government under the Biden administration announced an upcoming sweeping ban of Kaspersky software. Kaspersky is most well-known for its antivirus programs that protect Windows machines, but it also has several other types of programs and a robust library of Android apps. Its most popular Android app, VPN & Antivirus by Kaspersky, has over 100 million installs.

Reuters reports that the ban will come in two waves. First, new sales of Kaspersky products will need to cease in the US within 30 days of the ban’s official announcement, which is likely to land in the coming days. That means that by the end of July, Kaspersky software and licenses will no longer be sold in the US. The second wave will begin 100 days after the official announcement of the ban, which will likely be the end of September. At this point, all usage of Kaspersky software, licenses, and white-label products with Kaspersky technology underneath must end. The 100-day window is to give businesses time to invest in alternatives to Kaspersky’s offerings.

The Biden administration does not mince words about why it is instituting this ban. According to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, it is due to Kaspersky’s ties to Moscow and the possible security threat that that represents.

“Russia has shown it has the capacity and […] the intent to exploit Russian companies like Kaspersky to collect and weaponize the personal information of Americans, and that is why we are compelled to take the action that we are taking today,” Raimondo said on a call with reporters Thursday.

Per comments heard by WIRED, Raimondo had this to say to anyone who is currently using Kaspersky software:

You have done nothing wrong, and you are not subject to any criminal or civil penalties. However, I would encourage you, in as strong as possible terms, to immediately stop using that software and switch to an alternative in order to protect yourself and your data and your family.

To be clear, there will not likely be any criminal penalties for continuing to use Kaspersky software on personal computers and devices.

This ban is now the second time the Biden administration has pushed for a product to be removed from the US due to its ties to a foreign government. Previously, President Biden announced a ban of TikTok in the US should the owner ByteDance — based in China — not divest from the brand. ByteDance is fighting the ban in court on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

However, unlike with Kaspersky, Biden is giving far more leeway to ByteDance with no ban taking effect until 2025, at the earliest. Kaspersky, though, has such a short window of time that it is unlikely it will be able to fight back effectively. In other words, you should plan for Kaspersky’s ban now, as it is practically inevitable.

An election-year move using a tool from his opponent

President Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2024 presidential election. His opponent is expected to be former President Donald Trump, making it a repeat of the 2020 election. In 2016, Trump’s presidential win was revealed to have been heavily influenced by Russia, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in particular, possibly helping him to clinch the win.

This is likely at least part of the reason why Biden is acting swiftly now against Kaspersky. Judging by the timeline, Kaspersky will be absent from the United States by the time the election reaches a fever pitch.

Interestingly, the tool President Biden is using to ban Kaspersky is one enacted by Trump. It is similar to the “Entity List” tool Trump used to enact the HUAWEI ban in 2019.

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