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Does F-Secure's antivirus turn a blind eye to spook spyware? CEO hits back

Malware is malware, says top Finn

NSA's Fort Meade headquarters

Antivirus maker F-Secure has responded to privacy campaigners' concerns over the handling of spook-grade surveillance malware – by insisting its security software slays government spyware wherever it can.

In an open letter to the Bits of Freedom team, F-Secure president and chief exec Christian Fredrikson said his firm stands by its 2001 vow to not discriminate in favor of intelligence agencies when blocking potentially malicious code.

Earlier this month, the campaigners wrote [PDF] to F-Secure, which is headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, demanding to know whether the biz had "ever been approached ... by a government requesting that the presence of specific software is not detected, or if detected, not notified to the user of your software."

Fredrikson shot back: "If we would be approached by a government asking us not to detect a specific piece of malware, we would not comply with their request.

"To us, the source of the malware does not come into play when deciding whether to detect malware."

The privacy warriors' letter to F-Secure was part of a public call to antivirus vendors to disclose their policies.

The campaign, backed by top computer security expert Bruce Schneier, asked companies to come clean on whether they would turn a blind eye to a particular strain of spyware should a government ask.

Fredrikson said his company has encountered government-backed malware samples, citing the 2011 saga of R2D2 – a secretive package that was allegedly deployed by German police to listen in on VoIP calls.

The chief exec said his firm's software, once it detects malware, grants no special favors to the g-men's software. Fredrikson denied that F-Secure has ever been asked by government agencies to allow spyware through its security checks.

"If it's malware, we will protect our customers from it. Our decision-making boils down to a simple question: would our customers run this program on their system or not," the F-Secure boss continued.

"Obviously the answer for governmental trojans would be a 'no'." ®

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