U.S. government bans agencies from using Russian software over spying fears

DHS orders departments & agencies to remove Kaspersky products over 'Russian intelligence ties'

Logo of the Kaspersky Lab antivirus software developer

The DHS cited "information security risks" posed by the presence of Kaspersky software on federal information systems, explaining that Kaspersky products "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".

At a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in May, six of the US intelligence community's top officials all said they would not allow the use of Kaspersky software products in their systems.

The US Department of Homeland Security has directed US federal departments and agencies to discontinue use of Kaspersky products within the next 90 days, the agency said in a press release on Wednesday.

Two months ago, the Trump administration made a decision to remove Kaspersky Lab from the US government's list of companies whose products are approved for use on federal systems.

"Given that USA 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 US government entities", a Kaspersky spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters.

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.

The ban comes after US intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government was behind an effort to interfere with last year's presidential campaign with a goal of hurting Democrat Hillary Clinton and ultimately helping Republican Donald Trump win.

Kaspersky Lab said that the facts of the emails have been "misconstrued to fit in with the hypothetical, false theory".

He denies all charges of Russian government influence in his computer security products.

As ABC News previously reported, the FBI launched a counterintelligence investigation of Kaspersky Lab several years ago, and the agency has recently been taking new steps to assess Kaspersky Lab's relationship with Russian intelligence services, including interviewing company employees based in the United States. But Kaspersky has attracted increased attention in the wake of Russia's interference in the USA presidential election.

Longstanding suspicions about the company grew in the United States when U.S. -Russia relations deteriorated following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and later when U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election using cyber means. "Basically, it seems that because I'm a self-made entrepreneur who, due to my age and nationality, inevitably was educated during the Soviet era in Russia, they mistakenly conclude my company and I must be bosom buddies with the Russian intelligence agencies. Yes, it is that absurdly ridiculous".

In response to previous accusations, Kaspersky had pointed out that it "has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts". "The department wants to ensure that the company has a full opportunity to inform the Acting Secretary of any evidence, materials, or data that may be relevant".

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