Canada Bans WeChat, Kaspersky on Government Devices

Penka Hristovska
Penka Hristovska Senior Editor
Penka Hristovska Penka Hristovska Senior Editor

The Canadian government has banned the instant messaging service WeChat and well-known antivirus suite Kaspersky on all government-issued phones, citing security and privacy concerns. The apps will be uninstalled and users will no longer be able to download them.

The decision was announced Monday by president of the Treasury Board Anita Anand, and came into effect the same day.

“We are taking a risk-based approach to cyber security by removing access to these applications on government mobile devices,” she said. “We will continue to regularly monitor potential cyber threats and take immediate action when needed.”

In a separate statement, the Treasury Board of Canada, made it clear there’s no evidence that any government information has been compromised due to these apps, but that Canada’s Chief Information Officer Catherine Luelo determined that WeChat, owned by the China-based Tencent company, and the Russia-based Kaspersky “present an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”

“On a mobile device, the WeChat and Kaspersky applications’ data collection methods provide considerable access to the device’s contents,” the statement explained. Moving to ban these apps “ensure(s) that Government of Canada networks and data remain secure and protected and are in line with the approach of our international partners.”

Both China’s foreign ministry and Kaspersky criticized the move and argued that the basis for it was geopolitical tensions and ideology.

“We hope that the Canadian side will discard ideological prejudices, abide by the principles of market economy and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises,” said Wang Wenbin, WeChat spokesperson, during a Tuesday press brief.

“Kaspersky maintains that this prohibition is based on unsubstantiated allegations and without any public evidence of wrongdoing by the company. As there has been no evidence or due process to otherwise justify these actions, they are highly unsupported and a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services,” the company said in a Monday statement.

For now, the government says that private citizens should decide for themselves whether to use these apps on their mobile devices. It recommends that Canadians reach out to the Communications Security Establishment’s online guidance if they need help accessing the risks.

The ban comes months after the Canadian government banned the social media app TikTok, owned by the Beijing-based ByteDance, on government-issued mobile devices. In early March, all provinces followed suit and banned the app from their government phones as well.

About the Author
Penka Hristovska
Penka Hristovska
Senior Editor

About the Author

Penka Hristovska is an editor at SafetyDetectives. She was an editor at several review sites that covered all things technology — including VPNs and password managers — and had previously written on various topics, from online security and gaming to computer hardware. She’s highly interested in the latest developments in the cybersecurity space and enjoys learning about new trends in the tech sector. When she’s not in “research mode,” she’s probably re-watching Lord of The Rings or playing DOTA 2 with her friends.

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