Canada on Monday announced a ban on the use of apps from Tencent and Kaspersky on government mobile devices, citing an “unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
“The Government of Canada is committed to keeping government information and networks secure,” the Canadian government said. “We regularly monitor potential threats and take immediate action to address risks.”
To that end, Tencent’s WeChat and Kaspersky’s suite of applications have been removed from government-issued mobile devices effective October 30, 2023. Going forward, users of these devices will be blocked from downloading the apps.
“We are taking a risk-based approach to cyber security by removing access to these applications on government mobile devices,” Anita Anand, President of the Treasury Board, said in a statement, adding the apps “provide considerable access to the device’s contents.”
WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging, social media, and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. The all-in-one app has over 1 billion monthly active users, making it one of the largest online platforms.
Kaspersky, a Russian cybersecurity vendor, said the prohibition seems to be made on political grounds and that the actions 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 move comes after Canada banned ByteDance-owned TikTok from government devices on similar grounds in February 2023. Previously in March 2022, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) added Kaspersky to the “Covered List” of companies that pose an “unacceptable risk to the national security” of the country.