The U.S. has banned federal agencies from using computer antivirus software supplied by Kaspersky Lab due to concerns about the company’s ties to the Kremlin and Russian spy operations.
As reported by AP News, the directive was issued by acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Elaine Duke, and comes in the wake of several open investigations regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Russian-owned and -operated Kaspersky said in a statement that it was disappointed by the directive and insisted “it does not have unethical ties or affiliations with any government, including Russia.”
The order states that all U.S. federal agencies and departments must stop using products or services supplied directly or indirectly by the company. Agencies have 30 days to determine whether they are using any Kaspersky products, and the software must be removed from all information systems within 90 days.
“The department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies,” the directive said. It went on to state that there is also concern about Russian laws that would permit Russian spy agencies to compel Kaspersky to provide assistance or intercept communications within Russian networks.
The directive does give Kaspersky the chance to respond or mitigate the department’s concerns. The company claims the allegations are unfounded.
“No credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization, as the accusations are based on false allegations and inaccurate assumptions, including claims about the impact of Russian regulations and policies on the company,” Kaspersky said. “Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will [it] help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts, and it’s disconcerting that a private company can be considered guilty until proven innocent, due to geopolitical issues.”
But critics of the software company’s chief executive, Eugene Kaspersky, say it’s unlikely that Kaspersky could operate independently in Russia. In July, reports surfaced that U.S. lawmakers expressed concern that Kaspersky Lab’s products could be used to conduct “nefarious activities against the United States.”
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire said the directive was a positive step, calling the company’s ties with the Kremlin “alarming.” Shaheen has been working to pass a government-wide ban on Kaspersky software, which would effectively make the directive the law.
In addition, Best Buy has removed Kaspersky products from its shelves, while Amazon, which sells Kaspersky software, declined to comment. Staples and Office Depot, both of which sell the software, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.