USA orders purge of Russian Kaspersky anti-virus products

DHS bans Kaspersky on federal PCs over Russia fears

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke on Wednesday directed all federal agencies and departments to stop using products or services supplied by the Russian-owned and -operated company.

The agency explained its decision by citing "information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products on federal information systems", saying the Russian government could somehow "capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products" to compromise U.S. national security.

Agencies now have 90 days to remove Kaspersky software from their systems.

The senator's comment comes following earlier media reports suggesting that the United States government plans to limit the use of Kaspersky products in the country over the company's alleged ties to Russian intelligence services in a move the Kremlin called "politicized".

At least a half-dozen federal agencies run Kaspersky on their networks, the US officials said, although there may be other networks where an agency's chief information security officer - the official ultimately responsible for systems security - might not be aware it is being used. Kaspersky anti-virus products and solutions provide broad access to files and elevated privileges on the computers on which the software is installed, which can be exploited by malicious cyber actors to compromise those information systems. It said the department also is concerned about Russian laws that would permit Russian spy agencies to compel Kaspersky to provide assistance or intercept communications transiting Russian networks.

"This action is based on the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products on federal information systems", claimed the Department in its order.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that since the election, questions have intensified about federal information networks use of the Russian company's software. The Defense Department doesn't generally use Kaspersky software in any case, officials there told the newspaper.

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Kaspersky Lab released its own statement saying the allegations are false, claiming it "doesn't have any inappropriate ties with any government" and that there is "no credible evidence" to substantiate the ban and what it says is unfair treatment.

"Kaspersky Lab 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", the company said.

The General Services Administration removed Kaspersky from a list of pre-approved technology vendors in July, after press reports emerged linking the company to Russian intel.

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.

Kaspersky Lab has laughed off attempts to have its wares banned from U.S. government computers by saying it hardly sold to the Feds anyway.

It said it was not a telecoms provider and so not subject to the Russian laws Duke referred to on cooperation with the government. "The company looks forward to working with DHS, as Kaspersky Lab ardently believes a deeper examination of the company will substantiate that these allegations are without merit", the statement said.

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

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