Kaspersky software banned at USA federal agencies amid concerns of Kremlin ties

REUTERS  Sergei Karpukhin

It cites possible ties between certain Kaspersky officials and the Russian government that could use the software in homes, businesses and government agencies to spy on Americans to steal files or attack infrastructure.

This follows increasing scrutiny Kaspersky products have faced in recent months amid heightened concerns around potential Russian-borne cyber threats.

"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 United States national security", Duke said. Any US government agency using Kaspersky products needs to identify them within the next 30 days, the DHS instructs, and then come up with a plan to remove them completely in the next 60 days.

Kaspersky Labs has been invited to comment on the directive with a written response, the Department of Homeland Security said today.

The directive suggests the USA government puts some credence in reports that the popular antivirus company, and its founder Eugene Kaspersky, have close ties to Russian intelligence services. Best Buy did not link its decision to US Senator Jeanne Shaheen's attempt to have Kaspersky banned on government computers, but didn't explain it either. However, it claimed this was because "U.S. government sales have not been a significant part of the company's activity in North America".

In a statement, DHS echoed this sentiment Wednesday.

Meanwhile, unnamed sources told Russian news agency The Bell, that Kaspersky's Washington, D.C., branch, Kaspersky Government Security Solutions Inc, is considering closing its offices there because the US government has prohibited affiliation.

The directive provides Kaspersky an opportunity to respond or mitigate the department's concerns.

Indeed, the Department itself admitted that it didn't have any evidence of compromise.

Founder and chief executive Eugene Kaspersky said he has repeatedly offered to present the company's source code to USA officials for an audit, but has not been given the opportunity to do so.

Kaspersky Lab, on the other hand, firmly denies the accusations, stating that it "doesn't have any inappropriate ties with any government" and that there's "no credible evidence" to back up the "false allegations". A couple weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology asked 22 government agencies to share documents about their dealings with the firm.

It will take some time to stop the government from using Kaspersky products. "Many of those companies will now feel compelled to go through their systems and remove this antivirus program, as well as conduct a risk assessment".

Michael Borohovski, co-founder of Tinfoil Security, told Fox News that he wasn't surprised by the Department of Homeland Security's move.

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.

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