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US Senate Consisders Kaspersky Lab Cybersecurity Ban For Military

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

American lawmakers to consider banning Kaspersky Lab products due to Russia espionage concerns

United States Senators are considering a proposal that would see security products from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, banned for military use.

The national security concerns are cited within a proposal before the US Senate, because of concerns Kaspersky Lab “might be vulnerable to Russian government influence.”

It comes amid growing US concern at Russia’s cyberactivities, after Russia was directly identified by US intelligence agencies as having hacked (and then leaked) the emails of Democratic Party political groups ahead of the US Presidential election.

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Defence Ban

Indeed so serious is the matter, another investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, has begun looking into election meddling by Russia and possible collusion with associates of President Donald Trump.

Last month senior US intelligence officials acknowledged in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that they were reviewing government use of software from Kaspersky Lab.

And now according to Reuters, US senators are considering a defense spending policy bill that has already been passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

This bill would prohibit the US Defense Department from using Kaspersky software because the company “might be vulnerable to Russian government influence.”

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who amended the spending bill to include the Kaspersky comment, was quoted as saying in a statement that “ties between Kaspersky Lab and the Kremlin are very alarming.”

She reportedly added that there was a consensus in Congress and Trump officials who believe Kaspersky “cannot be trusted to protect critical infrastructure, particularly computer systems vital to our nation’s security,” Shaheen is quoted as saying.

FBI Investigation

And in a further twist, it has emerged that FBI agents have this week visited the homes of Kaspersky employees in a number of US cities.

Reuters said (citing two sources) that no search warrants had been served.

And Kaspersky Lab itself confirmed in a statement this week that FBI agents have had “brief interactions” with some of its US employees, discussions that the company described as “due diligence” chats.

Kaspersky Lab for its part has always denied any links to Russian intelligence agencies. And Kaspersky founder and Chief Executive Eugene Kaspersky has gone on the record previously that he would be willing to appear before the Senate to dispel any security concerns.

“Kaspersky Lab believes it is completely unacceptable that the company is being unjustly accused without any hard evidence to back up these false allegations,” Reuters quoted Kaspersky as saying in another statement. “It said that in its 20-year history, the company has abided by “the highest ethical business practices.”

National Security

The defense spending policy bill would need to pass the full Senate and House of Representatives and would have to be signed by President Trump before it became law.

Earlier this year Ruslan Stoyanov, the head of the Computer Incidents Investigation Team at Kaspersky Lab was arrested by Russian police as part of a treason investigation.

However it seems that the charges levelled at Stoyanov are related to his activities before he joined the security firm.

But it is worth noting that the US authorities have banned foreign products before over security concerns.

In 2012 for example, Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE retreated from the US market after authorities warned they should not be allowed to sell their wares in the US, as they pose a security threat. Both firms strenuously denied the allegations.

In 2013 British intelligence agencies, as well as those of Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand, banned Lenovo computers due to the alleged presence of hardware modifications that could facilitate hacking.

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