Canada bans WeChat and Kaspersky over fears of spying

Canadian authorities echoed the decision by the US and Europe to remove Kaspersky and WeChat from government mobile devices.

In a press release on October 30th, Anita Anand, the President of the Treasury Board, announced a ban on the use of WeChat, the Chinese social media application, and Kaspersky, a Russian cybersecurity suite of applications, on government-issued mobile devices.

The decision was made to keep the government’s networks secure. According to authorities, the WeChat and Kaspersky suites of applications present an “unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.” The applications collect user data and can provide considerable access to the device’s contents.

“We are taking a risk-based approach to cyber security by removing access to these applications on government mobile devices. The Government of Canada continuously works to safeguard our information systems and networks to ensure the privacy and protection of government information. We will continue to regularly monitor potential cyber threats and take immediate action when needed,” said Anand.

The ban comes into effect on October 30th, and the applications will be removed immediately from government-issued mobile devices and blocked from being downloaded. For the border public, the decision to use applications remains a personal choice. However, Canada’s Cyber Centre advises users to take precautions while using the apps.

Europe and the US are replacing Kaspersky

The Canadian authority's decision to ban Russian and Chinese applications comes in line with the approach of other Western countries.

Last year, after the war broke out in Ukraine, European authorities proposed an EU-level ban regarding the usage of Kaspersky applications, which has attracted increased suspicion that its products could be leveraged by Russia.

In 2022, Cybernews learned that Kaspersky Labs was protecting the resources of the Russian Ministry of Defense and other high-value domains that are instrumental to the Russian propaganda machine.

Germany's cyber watchdog, BSI, warned against using Kaspersky antivirus amidst Russia's threats against the EU and NATO. Using Kaspersky in the Lithuanian public sector has been banned since 2017. Italy's public sector has banned Russian antivirus software to prevent disruption of services in 2022. The same year, echoing moves by Europe, the US has deemed Kaspersky as a threat to national safety.

Another Chinese-owned application – the enormously popular video platform TikTok, has also been banned from devices of EU staff, as well as governmental mobile devices in the US, Austria, Australia, Belgium, and the UK, due to the risks of spying, as the collected user data is potentially accessible to Chinese authorities.

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