DHS bans government use of Kaspersky Lab software, citing ties to Russian Federation

Sep 14, 2017, 00:14
DHS bans government use of Kaspersky Lab software, citing ties to Russian Federation

In a statement on Wednesday, DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke directed all Executive Branch agencies and departments to identify any Kaspersky products being used over the next 30 days, to make a plan to eliminate their use in the next 60 days and to begin that discontinuation within 90 days.

"Given that US government sales have not been a significant part of the company's activity in North America, Kaspersky Lab is exploring opportunities to better optimize the Washington D.C. office responsible for threat intelligence offerings to USA government entities", a Kaspersky spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters.

This action is based on information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky Products on federal information systems.

The move comes amid several federal investigations into whether the Russian government attempted to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.

Here's what you need to know about what cyberweapons are and when they have been used in the past.

In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News after the DHS announcement, Kaspersky said that it "has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts, and it's disconcerting that a private company can be considered guilty until proven innocent, due to geopolitical issues".

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 Russian Federation.

The decision represents a sharp response to what USA intelligence agencies have described as a national security threat posed by Russian Federation in cyberspace, following an election year marred by allegations that Moscow weaponized the internet in an attempt to influence its outcome. A draft version of the Senate's National Defense Authorization Act has banned the Department of Defense from using it as well, though The Washington Post notes that the Defense Department doesn't generally use it anyway.

Eugene Kaspersky
Eugene Kaspersky Credit TASS via Getty Images

In its order on Wednesday, DHS cited Russian laws requiring companies to assist the Russian government and intelligence agencies.

The Best Buy-Kaspersky dissolution comes after several months of growing suspicion about just how cozy the antivirus company is with the Russian intelligence service.

Richard Ledgett, former NSA deputy director, hailed the move.

Kaspersky Lab paid former national security adviser Michael Flynn $11,250 in 2015 for cyber-security consulting, according to public documents, but that was not a focus of the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioning, multiple sources said.

American officials have not presented any concrete evidence that Kaspersky has allowed the Kremlin to use its products to advance its intelligence operations.

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

Intelligence officials implicated the Russian government in a series of cyberattacks a year ago on the Democratic National Committee's computers, and other Democratic officials.

This is the first time the US government has taken action and the clearest signal that the claims are being taken seriously.

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