McAfee joins the anti-Kaspersky witch hunt in shitty attempt to sell a few boxes

This is pretty low of you McAfee.

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Mcafee kaspersky

As you can’t have failed to notice if you follow the security news, Kaspersky is having a tough time in America.

That’s because the-powers-that-be are recommending that companies ditch the Russian anti-virus product, in case it’s in secret cahoots with the Kremlin to spy on Western customers.

The chiefs of the United States’s intelligence agencies have said publicly that they wouldn’t feel comfortable running Kaspersky anti-virus software on their computers, and the company is going to have a tough time selling its security solutions into the Department of Defense for fear of “Russian government influence”.

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There have even been some below-the-belt allegations that the company’s founder, Eugene Kaspersky, has been socialising with Kremlin agents at the sauna (no, I’m not making this up).

Eugene Kaspersky himself has offered to open up his product’s source code for inspection by the US authorities and repeatedly offered to meet with government officials, and testify before US Congress.

There’s lots of drama here, mixed with a fair amount of paranoia, but the missing ingredient? Any evidence of wrongdoing.

As far as I can see it really boils down to one thing: Kaspersky is Russian. And that’s a good enough reason to make his company’s life really difficult in the States. But it’s not good enough for me, it’s not good enough for the more security-savvy media…

..and it shouldn’t be good enough for you.

What’s odd is that if the Americans are so worried about Kaspersky products, wouldn’t it also make sense for other countries to also be wary of their industries relying on the software? When will we see the British, the French, the Australians, the Germans also boycott Kaspersky? Or will they instead wait until there is some convincing evidence that something bad is afoot at Kaspersky HQ?

A witch hunt against a long-established major player in the infosecurity space should be something that brings the industry together. So it galls me to see McAfee use the situation to its advantage, by engaging in some really tacky promotions.

Mcafee kaspersky

FBI Advises Removal of Kaspersky for suspected ties to Russian Spies
Safeguard with McAfee Total Protection.

I’ve seen some really tacky things from the anti-virus industry over the last 25 years, but I think this possibly reaches a new low. That’s pretty shitty McAfee.

If McAfee is such a great product they should be comfortable extolling their virtues and benefits, rather than dancing a jig of glee at a rival struggling with a changing geo-political landscape.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

21 comments on “McAfee joins the anti-Kaspersky witch hunt in shitty attempt to sell a few boxes”

  1. Bob

    Your article is now featured on the popular AskWoody site.

  2. Joey Lee

    Not sure what Americans are so concerned about when they are quite capable of breaching themselves.

    re: Equifax

  3. Peter Freeman

    Cheap, opportunistic, and nasty. Smearing a business rival in this manner, by innuendo, is unwarranted. The not-very-bright graduates in the McAfee Marketing Department should be ashamed of themselves. This makes me wonder whether McAfee itself has anything to hide when it comes to American government influence over that company.

    1. Richard Thrasher · in reply to Peter Freeman

      In such a highly competitive space like the cybersecurity industry (and the even more saturated sub-market of mediocre, ineffective Anti-virus solutions), vendors SHOULD be calling each other out on possible vulnerabilities or drawbacks. It's not "cheap, opportunistic and nasty" – it's comparing one of your USPs to your competitor's (no backdoors vs. potential backdoors). This has been the hallmark of advertising and political campaigns for generations…Don't blame "not-very-bright" marketers because people are easily persuaded by "what if?"

      Today, Kaspersky is an **OK** product, not a great one (and in general all AV solutions suck). But if it comes out that their solutions even played a small role in allowing Russia to exercise influence over other nations' elections, Kaspersky would absolutely deserve to be blackballed by the entire market. Moral of the story — buy European…no backdoors for either the CIA or KGB.

      1. Peter · in reply to Richard Thrasher

        Bitdefender ran a similar smear campaign on LinkedIn:
        "Concerned about renewing Kaspersky? Click to learn how to replace Kaspersky with no increase in cost"
        Very low, very weak. Why mention your competition? Instead use your own strength and focus on that. The LinkedIn campaign only talked about cost and fear, nowhere does it mention actual effectiveness, usability and third party scores. Also, both McAfee and Bitdefender are rated lower than Kaspersky in the various market schemes (Forrester, Gartner etc).
        So yeah, buy European, just skip Romania for the time being.

    2. Peter Freeman · in reply to Peter Freeman

      Graham, that screenshot is from an archive of "promos[dot]mcafee[dot]com" which is a McAfee-owned domain but appears to be separate from the main McAfee website (although entering the URL redirects, here in the UK at least) to the main site.

      I don't know when that particular page appeared but I suspect it was only in the US and was not up for long – it does not seem to be viewable now, and a Google image search does not find it. So it is quite possible that the page we see in the screenshot was pulled very quickly and a previous version restored.

      If anyone in the US can still see this page on the McAfee site I would expect there to be more adverse comments about it than I have so far seen. If the page was pulled and replaced then at least it shows that someone in McAfee had second thoughts about this kind of negative advertising, so give them credit where it's due.

      1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Peter Freeman

        Hi Peter

        FWIW, I reached the page on the McAfee website as I was preparing the article (I'm based in the UK)

        I created the archived copy of the webpage (the one I link to in the article) because I anticipated that McAfee might decide to take it down.

  4. Geoff King

    I use and trust Kaspersky. I've tried them all and it's the only one that hasn't given me any problems.

    McAfee is a dud as far as I'm concerned after this cheap stunt.

  5. Bill Blagger

    Most people run an American OS on hardware made in Chinese. People are worried about Kaspersky?

    1. Mahhn · in reply to Bill Blagger

      I have to agree loudly. China has been caught continuously having hardware and software reporting back to China, yet no ban. And what's with DHS using Mcafee – it's now based out of China and Russia. what a f'd up government we have.

  6. Farid Tahery

    To be honest, I am not the least bit surprised by McAfee's not-so-palatable marketing ploys, whether by including the trial version of their antivirus in the crapware pre-installed on new computers or a "scanner" installed by default whenever you install/upgrade, say, your Adobe Reader.

    The question with Kaspersky Labs, however, is not about integrity of Eugene Kaspersky or even most of its current employees, nor is it about any hidden backdoor in the current code. The main concern is the potential of threat and it IS real.

    Every AV product comes with an auto-update mechanism for its virus definitions/signatures as well as its detection engine. I don't think it is very practical for any user of their products to comb through every update on a daily basis. If at some point the Russian rulers decide to exercise "influence" to introduce a few blind spots in the definitions or, worse, a backdoor in the code, they can do so without Mr Kaspersky's permission or even knowledge. It would be naive to assume that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) doesn't already have people inside Kaspersky Labs, and every other important Russian company for that matter, or cannot coerce one of their employees into cooperation.

    1. Bruce · in reply to Farid Tahery

      If that is the case, you should also assume the NSA has people inside US companies or is in a position to coerce cooperation from their employees as well. After all, it has been common knowledge for years that the NSA and CIA have no qualms about risking the digital health of everyone for the ability to snoop on whomever they want at any time.

      1. Peter Freeman · in reply to Bruce

        That is a very reasonable assumption, although you try getting the NSA to admit that it might be true. Of course, tech people move back and forth between the government and tech companies all the time. Ex-NSA staffers could be in any of the tech companies.

      2. Farid Tahery · in reply to Bruce

        That's a fair assumption although employees working in Russia are much more susceptible to coercion by their government than their western counterparts.

        In any case, I doubt that government-related organizations in Russia are allowed to use American A/V software. The difference is that if such ban exists in Russia (which probably does), no one would care enough to make a fuss about it.

  7. Doug Revell

    My Norton 360 subscription lapses in a month. I see no reason to change the decision I made in the summer to move to Kaspersky as offering better value and maybe being slghtly more effective.
    Let’s be realistic; why would the Kremlin want to interfere with the PC of a somewhat geeky pensioner nobody has ever heard of?

    1. drleigh · in reply to Doug Revell

      They wouldn't, but interfering with twenty million, now that's a whole different ball game.

  8. Spryte

    An odd marketing stance for a company still owned by the supposedly trustworthy Intel,(49% as of April 2017).

    1. Peter Freeman · in reply to Spryte

      The marketing stance is McAfee's not Intel's. Intel has a minority stake – a very large minority, but still a minority. TPG and its partner Thoma Bravo have the controlling 51% stake and McAfee is now led by the ex-head of Intel. Independence but with a strong Intel interest, I would say.

      As for the McAfee Marketing Department, it is they who are responsible for the much-derided "McAfee Security Scan Plus" which comes bundled with many a download (I've seen it on Flash and Java) and which confuses and riles users in equal measure. Apparently the bean-counters believe it's worth all the aggravated users for the extra business it brings in. The words "Cybernetics" "Sirius" and "Corporation" spring to mind.

  9. Charles Davis

    Based on what is going on out there today, Russia wouldn't need access to Kaspersky's system to do some damage. They could just as easily penetrate other Virus companies.

  10. Jim

    I've been using Kaspersky for some years, seems effective enough, only gripe I have is that its automated update does tend to slow my computer down but as it's approx. a minute I'm not too bothered .

    What security software does Russia and China allow in their country?

    Are they okay with Norton or McAfee?

  11. coyote

    'Well, I'm back', coyote said.

    I don't know for how long or how often though; have a lot going on. But did want to drop by and say hi. As for the topic here: well you know where I stand on it; it's indeed very low and a pathetic example of being an opportunist. And anyone who thinks the risk is there I say this:

    Would you like it if someone started saying you were a danger? You know there's this little thing called defamation. You know, libel and slander. Would you like it if it was done to you? Or would you try to go to court over it?

    Well it would serve you right if someone did start defaming you if you think it's perfectly okay to defame Kaspersky without any evidence. Maybe those who agree with this idea should be libelled and slandered? No. I think not: that would be stooping to their level and that's a sign of weakness not strength.

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