The Italian government is preparing to halt the use of Russian antivirus software in the public sector in the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, fearing that Moscow could hijack programs to hack key websites, officials said.
Under-Secretary of State for Security Franco Gabrielli told the Senate on Tuesday that the government was working on rules to allow state-owned companies to plug into software developed by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab.
An official source told Reuters that the new rules would allow the public administration to replace all software considered potentially dangerous, without penalties.
A second source said the regulation could be approved earlier this week.
Kaspersky’s office in Italy said it was monitoring the situation “with great concern” and was particularly concerned about its staff, warning that they had taken the risk of making decisions based on geopolitics rather than technical issues.
“We hope that this attitude will not lead to the implementation of liberal legislation that will primarily affect our Italian partners, families and citizens,” Kaspersky said in an email to Reuters.
Kaspersky added that it was a privately owned company with which the Russian government had no ties.
In a recommendation issued on Tuesday, Italy’s state cybersecurity agency said there was no evidence that products supplied by Russian-linked companies had been compromised since the February 24 attack on Ukraine.
However, it warns that risks need to be re-evaluated in the face of growing conflict and that antivirus software is particularly vulnerable due to the “high level of aggression” of the systems they serve.
Earlier this week, German cybersecurity agency Kaspersky warned users of the software that it posed a serious risk of a successful hacking attack.
In a sign that the Italian business world was also sensitive about its relationship with Kaspersky, Formula One team Ferrari said on Thursday that its sponsorship deal with the firm had been suspended through a mutual agreement. A Ferrari spokesman added that the company was evaluating its use of Kaspersky antivirus software.
Thomson Reuters 2022