Despite the undoubted success of the FIFA World Cup, it’s fair to say Russia isn’t riding a wave of global popularity right now.
A series of negative news stories has sharpened focus on Russian activities, particularly following a string of alleged cyber-attacks on neighbouring Ukraine.
Relations between America and Russia have deteriorated to a level not seen since the Cold War, which has perhaps fuelled criticism of Russia’s leading antivirus brand, Kaspersky.
At the start of this year, US federal agencies banned Kaspersky products over fears the company’s software might be exploited by the Russian government or security services.
And in June, a judge ruled those agencies hadn’t broken any laws in singling out Kaspersky in such an unusual way.
Kaspersky sales promptly slumped across America, despite the firm recently announcing many of its core processes would be transferred to Switzerland from Russia.
And nor is this issue solely down to the (undeniably erratic) actions of Donald Trump.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre also warned against installing Kaspersky software in situations where “access to the information by the Russian state would be a risk to national security”.
That’s clearly more of an issue for GCHQ than Greggs, but even so, it bolstered public perceptions that Russian computer software is somehow untrustworthy or open to Kremlin-driven manipulation.
Barclays quickly withdrew its offer of free Kaspersky products for its customers, as a “precautionary” measure.
But should the rest of us be concerned?
I have Kaspersky software. Do I need to replace it?
At the present time, there’s nothing to suggest Kaspersky products are unsafe.
The company’s antivirus packages perform strongly in industry benchmark tests, with no obvious backdoors that might facilitate access by government agencies.
After all, Russian intelligence agencies are comparable in scale and scope to the FBI and CIA, and nobody is panicking about uninstalling products from American companies.
Kaspersky’s decision to relocate data processing facilities to Switzerland might be a PR stunt, but it indicates a laudable desire for transparency.
And while the NCSC recommends sensitive data shouldn’t be guarded by Kaspersky software, it also issued a public statement saying “we really don’t want people…ripping out Kaspersky software at large, as it makes little sense.”
If you’re a private individual, or a small business trading within the UK, your data is unlikely to be of much interest to Vladimir Putin’s associates.
And let’s not forget many of the world’s worst data breaches – from Yahoo to Equifax – involved American companies, who aren’t being subjected to Kaspersky levels of scrutiny.
You need to take a leap of faith when installing any antivirus software, and there’s currently no evidence Kaspersky is any less secure than rival products from Microsoft or Norton.
Anyone harbouring doubts could always choose antivirus software from the Czech giants AVG or Avast – or buy British and install Sophos products.
Any modern antivirus packages should provide robust protection against the real threats lurking in cyberspace – hackers and scammers.