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Tuesday, 25 July 2017 11:04

US local govts still using Kaspersky software despite federal ban Featured


US local government agencies across the country are continuing to use software from Kaspersky Lab even though the federal government removed the company from a list of approved software suppliers for two government-wide purchasing contracts that are used to buy technology services.

The federal move came amid accusations, since last year, that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

At the time of the federal move, a General Services Administration spokeswoman was quoted 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.”

Kaspersky Lab has repeatedly said that it has no ties to the Russian government and offered to provide the source code of its products for review to prove that there are no malicious instructions therein.

However, it has been pointed out that in one case, Kaspersky Lab made misleading claims with regard to the spying charges levelled against it. The fact that a source code review is unlikely to prove anything has also been publicised by a tech expert.

A report in the Baltimore Post said in the weeks since the GSA order, Kaspersky software had been found on government computers in places from Portland, Oregon, to Fayetteville, Georgia. In the latter location, an official said there was an annual contract to use the software.

It also said that checks with the Bureau of Prisons and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, both federal agencies, resulted in the response that more time was needed to find if Kaspersky products were still being used within the agencies.

It quoted John Morrisson, systems manager for the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services, as saying: "We use it, and I think it works well. I don’t have any problems, and we don’t have any viruses. And it’s doing the job I require of it.”

He added that the concerns about Kaspersky Lab products were speculative, but that he would junk the software if specific vulnerabilities were pointed out to him.

Kaspersky software is set to be used on a public school wireless network in Picayune, Mississippi. The report said network administrator Jason Wheat was unaware of the GSA’s decision and had not been warned by the state to avoid the company's products.

But, he said he was not bothered because the Social Security numbers of employees were stored on a separate server.

The Portland city administration uses Kaspersky software along with other anti-virus software. Connecticut’s public defender said that as of early 2016 its office had hundreds of computers running Kaspersky software.

And San Marcos in Texas approved a US$92,744 contract for Kaspersky software in June, with a spokesman saying that the software had been used for many years and the licence renewal took place before the GSA issued its order.

There has been a warning from a Russian minister earlier this month that any "unilateral political sanctions" by the US against Russian companies could prompt a response from Moscow.

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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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