US puts Russian antivirus maker Kaspersky on security risk list

The United States says Kaspersky is a threat to national security.

  • Kaspersky, a well-known anti-virus software vendor, has been added to a list of companies considered a threat to US national security.
  • The US government banned the use of Kaspersky software in federal information systems in 2017.
  • Moscow-headquartered Kaspersky said it was “disappointed” by the move.

The United States has placed internet security provider AO Kaspersky Lab on a list of companies deemed a national security threat, adding a Russian entity for the first time to a list dominated by Chinese telecommunications companies.

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission also added China Telecom (Americas) Corp and China Mobile International USA to the list.

Once a company is on the list, federal grants cannot be used to purchase its equipment or services.

The action is part of the FCC’s efforts to “strengthen America’s communications networks against national security threats,” the agency’s president, Jessica Rosenworcel, said in a press release. She had previously warned of possible cyberattacks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kaspersky is a well-known antivirus software vendor and has investigated a series of nation-state hacking incidents. It advertises itself as the world’s largest private cybersecurity company on its website. It says it protects over 400 million users and 240,000 businesses.

In a statement, the company said it was “disappointed” with the FCC’s action, calling it “a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive assessment of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services.”

“Kaspersky will continue to assure its partners and customers of the quality and integrity of its products,” the company said.

Kremlin links

In 2017, the US government banned the use of Kaspersky software in federal information systems, citing concerns about the Moscow-based security firm’s ties to the Russian government and espionage efforts.

A White House official said in 2017 that Kaspersky software on US networks posed “unacceptable risk”, mainly because Russian law requires the company to work with its main spy agency, the FSB.

The FCC said Friday that the 2017 action persuaded it that “Kaspersky-branded products pose an unacceptable national security risk” to the United States.

The FCC has taken increasing interest in Russian telecommunications since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. On February 25, Rosenworcel proposed an investigation into vulnerabilities in the Internet’s global routing system, in light of cyber threats resulting from the war.

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On March 16, Rosenworcel said the agency had completed a review of Russian interests in US communications networks and shared its findings with national security officials. She did not provide details.

For Friday’s update to the list, the FCC said it was relying on findings from the Department of Homeland Security and an interagency executive branch body called the Committee for Attendance Evaluation. in the telecommunications services industry in the United States.

Homeland Security in 2017 cited “the risk that the Russian government, whether acting alone or in conjunction with Kaspersky, could capitalize on the access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise Federal information and information systems.”

Kaspersky at the time denied “inappropriate ties to any government” and criticized the US decision as “based on false claims and inaccurate assumptions, including claims about the impact of Russian regulations and policies.”

Last year, the FCC placed five Chinese companies on the list. They were Huawei Technologies Co., ZTE Corp., Hytera Communications Corp., Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.

The Chinese companies placed on the list on Friday had previously been barred from the US market by the FCC. In an October vote, the FCC kicked out China Telecom, and the agency citing security concerns in 2019 rejected China Mobile’s bid to provide phone service.

– With help from Jeffrey Stone.

Virginia C. Taylor