DHS says government agencies need to delete Russian company's software

Moskva News Agency

The Department of Homeland Security issued the order on September 13 following growing criticism in Congress and elsewhere about the Moscow-based company's software products, which are widely used in the United States and elsewhere.

"The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates USA national security", it said.

Three months after the General Services Administration removed Kaspersky Lab from a list of approved federal vendors, Homeland Security is banning the Russian security software maker outright. A 2012 report from Bloomberg discussed founder Eugene Kaspersky's ties to the Russian FSB and his background in KGB-sponsored cryptography research.

Longstanding suspicions about the company grew in the United States when U.S. -Russia relations deteriorated following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and later when U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election using cyber means. At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in May, six of the US's top intelligence officials, including the directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, said they would not be comfortable personally using Kaspersky software.

The directive said Kaspersky's anti-virus products allow "broad access" to files and can be exploited by "malicious cyberactors" to compromise the systems. The directive gives agencies 30 days to determine whether they are using any Kaspersky products.

Kaspersky said the company was happy to have an opportunity to provide information to show that the allegations are unfounded.

"Expanding the company's presence in the region will better enable Kaspersky Lab to provide its customers with the best cybersecurity solutions and services", the statement said.

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Concerns about Kaspersky software had been brewing for years, according to one former official who told The Post that some congressional staffers were warned by federal law enforcement officials as early as November 2015 not to meet with employees from Kaspersky, over concerns about electronic surveillance.

The federal ban could lead to pressure on state and local governments to ditch Kaspersky products as well.

A former senior official at the company told NBC News that the company's US federal government business is small, but the reputational damage from a federal ban would be huge.

In a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday, the company said: "Kaspersky Lab doesn't have inappropriate ties with any government, which is why no credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization to back up the false allegations made against the company.

In fact, the GSA pulled Kaspersky from its list of pre-approved vendors back in July", he said, noting USA fears about potential cyber espionage.

"The truth is we don't know if Kaspersky has direct ties", he said.

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