Wednesday, 12 July 2017 08:31

US restricts use of Kaspersky products by govt agencies

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The US government has removed Kaspersky Lab from a list of approved software suppliers for two government-wide purchasing contracts that are used to buy technology services.

Politico reported that the decision came amid fears that the Kaspersky products could be used for spying by Russia.

It quoted a General Services Administration spokeswoman as saying: "GSA’s priorities are to ensure the integrity and security of US government systems and networks and evaluate products and services available on our contracts using supply chain risk management processes.”

Asked for a reaction, the Australian arm of Kaspersky Lab directed iTWire to a statement that read, in part: ""Kaspersky Lab has no ties to any government, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyber-espionage efforts. The company has a 20-year history in the IT security industry of always abiding by the highest ethical business practices and trustworthy development of technologies, and Kaspersky Lab believes it is completely unacceptable that the company is being unjustly accused without any hard evidence to back up these false allegations."

Earlier, the ABC News reported that a final decision could be made in coming days, even as Bloomberg reported that emails it had obtained showed that Kaspersky Lab had developed products for the Russian intelligence service FSB and also accompanied its agents on raids.

The company's owner, Eugene Kaspersky, reacted to the Bloomberg report saying: "Regardless of how the facts are misconstrued to fit in with a hypothetical, false theory, Kaspersky Lab, and its executives, do not have inappropriate ties with any government. The company does regularly work with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world with the sole purpose of fighting cyber crime."

If the US government removes Kaspersky Lab from the General Service Administration's list of vendors who can supply government agencies, it is likely to affect only future contracts.

Bloomberg claimed the emails, dating from 2009, were a thread between Eugene and senior staff, with the owner outlining, in Russian, a secret project that had been carried out a year earlier "per a big request on the Lubyanka side", a reference that was said to refer to the FSB offices.

This software was said to protect clients from DDoS attacks, but had a wider scope, the report claimed. There would also be co-operation with ISPs to locate bad actors and block their attacks, while assisting with “active countermeasures”, something that Eugene reportedly told his staff to keep secret.

It quoted the email as saying: "The project includes both technology to protect against attacks (filters) as well as interaction with the hosters (‘spreading’ of sacrifice) and active countermeasures (about which, we keep quiet) and so on.”

Kaspersky Lab has been under pressure in the US, with the FBI having questioned some of its employees recently in connection with a counter-intelligence probe.

Eugene has offered to provide the source code of his company's products for examination by the US government to put to rest claims that it contains any malicious elements to spy on customers.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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