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  1. ITV Report

Cybersecurity boss gives fresh warning over Russian anti-virus software

UK Government agencies will avoid using antivirus software made by firms with links to Russia. Credit: PA

Government departments have been warned not to use antivirus software made by tech firms with links to Russia amid concerns over national security.

In a letter to Whitehall chiefs agreed with MI5, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) described Russia as a "highly capable cyber threat actor" which uses cyberspace for "espionage, disruption and influence operations".

Ciaran Martin said Russia has the intent "to target UK central Government and the UK's critical national infrastructure."

He added there are "obvious risks around foreign ownership" of companies that produce anti-virus (AV) software.

The NCSC is in discussion with the largest Russian player in the UK, Kaspersky Lab, in order to develop checks to prevent "transfer of UK data to the Russian state," Mr Martin said.

Russia stands accused of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, while MPs have questioned if Moscow sought to interfere in UK elections and the Brexit referendum.

At a speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet at the City of London's Guildhall in November, Prime Minister Theresa May accused Moscow of attempting to "sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions" by trying to "weaponise information".

Mr Martin has previously warned that Russian hackers have targeted the UK energy network, telecoms and the media in the past year.

However his letter said most people and companies in the UK were not under threat of state-backed cyber attacks, but rather from criminal gangs.