Amid the allegation and an ongoing investigation that Russia got President Donald Trump elected to United States highest office, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke on Wednesday said in a statement that all federal government agencies are banned from using software developed by Kaspersky Lab
Kaspersky with some 400 million customers around the world is considered one of Russia’s most successful global companies and counts among its ranks former Russian intelligence officials including its CEO Eugene Kaspersky wt the age of 16, Kaspersky entered a five-year program with The Technical Faculty of the KGB Higher School which prepared intelligence officers for the Russian military and KGB.
Russian telecommunications companies for example are required by federal law in Russia to cooperate with the government’s military and spy operations if asked and critics says that the company is being used to spy on users for Russian intelligence.
Kaspersky though said it is not subject to the Russian laws cited in the directive and said information received by the company is protected in accordance with legal requirements and stringent industry standards, including encryption.
The company has repeatedly denied that it has ties to any government and have insisted that the US does not want to use his company’s software for political reasons. It said there is no evidence for accusations by U.S. officials and lawmakers that its antivirus software may be used to provide espionage services to the Kremlin.
Till date U.S officials have failed to present any concrete evidence that Kaspersky has allowed the Kremlin to use its products to advance its intelligence operations and even one of its closest competitor FireEye have admitted that many U.S. IT companies also have executives that formerly worked for government military and intelligence agencies.
Kaspersky anti-virus frequently protects state, local and tribal government computers and through the past decade has plugged into systems at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Treasury Department, the National Institutes of Health and U.S. embassies.
The directive (Binding Operational Directive – BOD) issued to agencies ordered all government agencies to identify Kaspersky products on their information systems within 30 days, develop plans to remove and discontinue the products within 60 days, and begin discontinuing their use completely within 90 days.
In a remark at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington Rob Joyce, Trump’s top cyber adviser said that “Under Russian law that company must collaborate with the FSB … for us in the government that was can unacceptable risk.”
Former American intelligence officials have described Kaspersky as a huge potential asset for the Kremlin because of the way anti-virus software works.
By its very nature, anti-virus software provides its operator with deep insight into its customer’s computer.
Typically, an anti-virus software does its work by regularly scanning every single file and system on a computer. Because it does this on the computer itself rather than at the periphery of an entire network, there usually aren’t other systems monitoring the work of the anti-virus.
The digital security systems DHS provides to federal agencies, known as Einstein and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation, for example, sit on the periphery of agency networks, not at the device level.
When the anti-virus finds something suspicious in a file, it will quarantine that file for additional, automated investigation. When it spots a known vulnerability in a particular system, it will protect against it.
If the anti-virus sees something that looks suspicious but isn’t a known infection—say, for instance, a file that may be infected with polymorphic malware constantly changing its particular digital signature—it may encrypt that file and transport it to the AV company’s own systems for investigation. If the file is genuinely malicious, the company will alert its other customers to protect them. The faster and more frequently those updates come out, the more valuable an anti-virus is for its customers.
Matthew D. Green, an assistant professor and cryptography researcher at Johns Hopkins’ Information Security Institute said that anti-virus softwares are really powerful and that “it has to be powerful to do what it does. It explores every nook and cranny of a computer and you can’t restrict it. It can change the way an operating system works. It can bypass a lot of features of the operating system. It has almost total visibility into every [email] attachment.”
In a statement sent to Fox News, Kaspersky Lab denied any involvement with the Russian government.
“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,” it 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.”
Michael Borohovski, co-founder of Tinfoil Security told Fox News that he wasn’t surprised by the Department of Homeland Security’s move.
“The U.S. government has been looking at Kaspersky for years, so this announcement is no real surprise to anyone. In fact, the GSA pulled Kaspersky from its list of pre-approved vendors back in July,” he said, noting U.S. fears about potential cyber espionage. “The US has aired similar concerns about other companies, like Chinese telecom company Huawei, which is currently banned from entering the US network equipment market.”
Earlier this week, retailer Best Buy said it would stop selling Kaspersky software for the time being. In a tweet, Kaspersky Lab said that the two companies have “suspended” their relationship, which they said may be “re-evaluated” in the future.
Best Buy Co. declined to give details about why it dropped Kaspersky products, saying that it doesn’t comment on contracts with specific vendors.