Home Government Tech Policy US homeland security dept bans Kaspersky use by govt

US homeland security dept bans Kaspersky use by govt

The US Department of Homeland Security has ordered all government agencies to stop using products from Kaspersky Labs, with a deadline of 90 days to implement plans to discontinue the use and to remove software from information systems.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the DHS said the ban was based on "the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products on federal information systems".

Agencies have been given 30 days to identify their use of Kaspersky products and 60 days to develop detailed plans to remove and discontinue present and future use of the products.

Moves against Kaspersky Lab in the US have been building ever since the presidential elections of 2016, after claims that Russia had interfered to influence things the way of Donald Trump began to gain traction.

Since then, the FBI has been briefing private sector companies to give up use of Kaspersky products. The first indication of its success came last week when multinational consumer electronics corporation Best Buy pulled Kaspersky products from its shelves and offered customers help to get rid of installed software.

kaspersky

Eugene Kaspersky, the head of Kaspersky Labs.

Prior to that, in July, the US government removed Kaspersky products from a list of approved software suppliers for two government-wide purchasing contracts.

The DHS statement claimed the ban on Kaspersky products was made for security reasons. 

"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," the statement said.

"The Department 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. 

"The risk that the Russian Government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalise on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates US national security."

It said Kaspersky was being given the opportunity to provide a written response regarding the concerns it had voiced, or to mitigate those concerns.

"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," it said. "This opportunity is also available to any other entity that claims its commercial interests will be directly impacted by the directive."

On Tuesday, reacting to the Best Buy action, Kaspersky said it planned to open three new offices in North America next year.

"Currently, Kaspersky Lab has three operational offices in North America. As part of its ongoing commitment to the market, the company plans to open three new offices in the region in 2018: Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto," the company said in a statement.

"Given that US Government sales have not been a significant part of the company’s activity in North America, Kaspersky Lab is exploring opportunities to better optimise the Washington DC office responsible for threat intelligence offerings to US Government entities."

The company said it had operated in the region since 2005, and North America remained a strategic market.

"The company’s North American unit employs nearly 300 employees, including members of the expert Global Research and Analysis Team. Expanding the company’s presence in the region will better enable Kaspersky Lab to provide its customers with the best cyber security solutions and services," it added.

Photos: courtesy Kaspersky Labs

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.