FILE PHOTO: A man walks next to Russian Kaspersky stand during the GSMA’s 2022 Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Albert Gea/

March 18, 2022

ROME (Reuters) -Italy’s public administration must replace antivirus software that is linked to Russia to prevent any disruption of services due to the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, a draft decree seen by Reuters said on Friday.

The move comes as Italy’s data regulator starts a probe into potential privacy risks connected to the use of software provided by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, amid growing concerns over potential cybersecurity attacks.

The regulatory body asked Kaspersky Lab to provide the number and the nature of its customers in the country, and to clarify how its tools process personal data, including whether these are made available to foreign governments.

Kaspersky told Reuters on Thursday that it was a privately-managed company with no ties to the Russian government and said it risked suffering from decisions that were based on geopolitics rather than real technical concerns.

In a recommendation issued earlier this week, the Italian state cybersecurity agency said there was no evidence products provided by companies linked to Russia had been compromised since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

However, it warned that risks needed to be reassessed amid the growing conflict and that anti-virus software was particularly sensitive due to the “high level of invasiveness” of the systems they serve.

A similar alert was issued on Tuesday in Germany, where the local cybersecurity body warned users of the anti-virus software developed by Kaspersky Lab that it posed a serious risk of a successful hacking attack.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones)

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