The government has issued a warning over Russian anti-virus software

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British cybersecurity experts have warned United Kingdom government agencies not to use antivirus software produced by the Russian firm Kaspersky Lab.

Ciaran Martin, head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), described Russian Federation as a "highly capable cyber threat actor" that was prepared to use espionage and disruption against the UK.

USA authorities are investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and some British lawmakers have called for a similar probe into the U.K.'s European Union membership referendum.

Martin said the NCSC was in talks with Russia's Kaspersky Lab to develop a system for verifying its products, which are used around the world, including in Whitehall.

Prime Minister Theresa May said last month that Russian Federation was "weaponizing information" and meddling in elections to undermine the global order. Martin said last month that Russian hackers had targeted the U.K.'s media, telecommunications and energy sectors in the past year.

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But Mr Martin did add the main threat to the United Kingdom was likely to come from cyber criminals rather than the Russian state.

He said: "The NCSC advises that Russian Federation is a highly capable cyber threat actor which uses cyber as a tool of statecraft".

The guidance continued: "We will be transparent about the outcome of those discussions with Kaspersky Lab and we will adjust our guidance if necessary in the light of any conclusions".

In an email to 290,000 online banking customers on Saturday (2 December), Barclays said: "The UK government has been advised to remove any Russian products from all highly sensitive systems classified as secret or above".

"We really don't want people doing things like ripping out Kaspersky software at large, as it makes little sense", he said in a blog. He goes on to note that "there's nearly no installed base of Kaspersky AV in central government", and that beyond that small existing number, "we see no compelling case at present to extend", to the general public.

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