Threat Intelligence

U.S. bans use of Kaspersky Labs software on government systems

Acting on concerns that Russian company Kaspersky Lab has connections to cyberespionage activities, the U.S. government has banned the use of Kaspersky Lab security software, according to a binding order released Wednesday by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.

The order gives federal agencies three months to inventory and remove the software.

“The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks,” according to a DHS statement.

The agency said, "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 U.S. national security.”

Company founder Eugene Kaspersky pinned the ban on politics. "When politics use the news to shape facts, no one wins," he tweeted.

Kaspersky Lab issued a statement expressing disappointment with the directive. “Given that Kaspersky Lab doesn't have inappropriate ties with any government, the company is disappointed with the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but also is grateful for the opportunity to provide additional information to the agency in order to confirm that these allegations are completely unfounded." 

The statement said, "No credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization as the accusations are based on false allegations and inaccurate assumptions, including claims about the impact of Russian regulations and policies on the company. Kaspersky Lab has always acknowledged that it provides appropriate products and services to governments around the world to protect those organizations from cyberthreats, but it does not have unethical ties or affiliations with any government, including Russia."

The scrutiny and speculation that have long dogged Kaspersky have become increasingly intense as focus has been trained on Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election.

"In today's geopolitical environment, this step was probably inevitable. Whether you trust Kaspersky or not, it's impossible to prove a negative – that they weren't collaborating with the Russian government, especially because by its nature, this type of collaboration would be kept secret," said Willy Leitcher, vice president of marketing with Virsec Systems. 

"But hopefully cooler heads will prevail before this becomes a Cold War-style commercial sanctions battle," said Leichter. "Further Balkanizing the internet runs contrary to the global cooperation needed to make cyber security successful."

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