As investigations into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections intensify, the American government has initiated a process which will ban all state agencies from making use of Russian antivirus software giant, Kaspersky.
Founded by Russian entrepreneur Eugene Kaspersky, the computer protection software is one of the world’s leading antivirus technologies, ranking in the top five next to BitDefender, Norton, and McAfee, amongst others.
But now the U.S. has reason to believe that the software market leader has potential ties to Russian espionage agencies, and, if true, would leave the government vulnerable to continued cyber attacks from Russian hackers.
Elaine Duke, currently acting as homeland security secretary, has ordered all government agencies to locate and remove Kaspersky Lab software from their systems. Departments have 90 days to implement the directive.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that it “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.”
This development comes after the General Services Administration, the department in charge of government acquisitions, removed Kaspersky from their list of approved purveyors.
Meanwhile, Eugene Kaspersky has hit back at the actions of the U.S. government, saying that 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.”
Moreover, representatives of Kaspersky Lab have denied the U.S. government’s assertion that Russian laws requiring companies to comply with information requests do not apply to the software company.
It also said that the Russian law requiring assistance does not apply to the company.
“Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyber espionage or offensive cyber efforts, and it’s disconcerting that a private company can be considered guilty until proven innocent, due to geopolitical issues.”
The company has stated that it would comply with any requests from the Department of Homeland Security.
According to a report in the Washington Post, the DHS has given Kaspersky 90 days to provide adequate proof that there are no ties between the antivirus giant and the Kremlin.
Nearly ten federal agencies currently make use of the Kaspersky Lab software, as far as officials know. There may be more networks that aren’t easily detectable that also have Kaspersky installed.
Despite persistent denials by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the government of Russia had anything to do with 2016 election interference, certain American lawmakers have long been reticent to trust the use of Kaspersky in government systems.
Democratic Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, has never been comfortable with the Russian Kaspersky Lab software on government systems, and as such was very happy to hear about the latest move by the DHS. The action, Shaheen says, is “a significant step forward in improving our national security and protecting against such vulnerabilities on federal systems.”
Chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, Joseph Hall, has expressed concern over an apparent lack of evidence being made available to the public to verify that Kaspersky may be involved in sinister collaborations with Russian hackers and spies.
So far, Hall says, people have only heard “intelligence-community rumblings about the potential for back doors.”
Nevertheless, U.S. intelligence agencies maintain that they have enough evidence to support skepticism about Kaspersky Lab software.
[Featured Image by Pavel Golovkin/AP Images]