Thursday, 24 May 2018 11:36

US struggling to remove Kaspersky code from its networks

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US Government offices are struggling to remove code created by Kaspersky Lab from their networks to meet a 1 October deadline, following a ban on its use in September last year.

A report in the Daily Beast claimed that the company's code was in routers, firewalls and other hardware used by US agencies.

One US official was quoted as saying: "It’s messy, and it’s going to take way longer than a year. Congress didn't give anyone money to replace these devices, and the budget had no wiggle-room to begin with."

The US Department of Homeland Security banned the use of Kaspersky Lab products in the public sector on 13 September 2017. This was expanded in December under the National Defence Authorisation Act to include “any hardware, software, or services developed or provided, in whole or in part", by Kaspersky.

Since the DHS action, reports in mainstream US media have ramped up the pressure on Kaspersky which has since closed down its office in Washington DC.

Reports claim that the US is mulling more sanctions on Kaspersky Lab, which could include a ban on the company operating in the US, but that the government is divided on the proposal.

The US has already announced two rounds of sanctions against Russia. The second, made public on 7 April, included measures against seven high-profile Russian businessmen, a dozen of their companies and 17 senior government officials.

Earlier, the US and several of its allies had expelled Russian diplomats in protest at Moscow's alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the UK.

Many of Kaspersky's partners — firms like D-Link, Check Point and Allied Telesis — have used code developed by the company in their products.

The secretary of the DHS, Kirstjen Nielsen, acknowledged during an 8 May Congressional hearing that she did not have full details on the extent of Kaspersky code.

But the Beast report said that uptil now, no list had been produced. It cited congressional sources as saying they were not sure that the DHS even had a list of third-party software and hardware that contained code from Kaspersky.

Kaspersky Lab has a couple of lawsuits in progress, one against the September ban and a second specifically against the NDAA expansion of the ban.

The level of confusion within the government was evident from a quote attributed to an US official who was said to have direct knowledge of the implementation of the ban.

“There are so many subcommittees claiming jurisdiction over cyber security issues that there are different panels of oversight, different pots of money,” this individual was quoted as saying.

"The executive branch is being torn in different directions… The legislative branch, in their refusal to effectively organise on this issue, shares equal responsibility with the executive for failures in US Government cyber security.”

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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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