US orders purge of Russian Kaspersky anti-virus products

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab, is seen at a press conference he called in Moscow last April. He denies all charges of Russian government influence in his computer security products. (EPA photo)

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Wednesday told US government agencies to remove Kaspersky Lab products from their information systems, saying it was concerned the Moscow-based cyber security firm was vulnerable to Kremlin influence.

The full statement is below.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a directive to agencies ordering them to identify Kaspersky products on their information systems within 30 days, develop plans to remove and discontinue the products within 60 days, and begin discontinuing their use within 90 days.

"The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks," the department said in a statement.

Kaspersky did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has repeatedly denied that it has ties to any government and said it would not help a government with cyber espionage. It said there is no evidence for accusations by US officials and lawmakers that its antivirus software may be used to provide espionage services to the Kremlin.

The decision by the Trump administration comes as the US Senate was planning to vote as soon as this week on a defense policy spending bill that includes language that would ban Kaspersky Lab products from being used by US government agencies.

Kaspersky Labs laughed off the directive.

"Given that US government sales have not been a significant part of the company's activity in North America, Kaspersky Lab is exploring opportunities to better optimize the Washington D.C. office responsible for threat intelligence offerings to US government entities," the company said in a statement.

The US-owned Best Buy chain sazid it would no longer sell Kaspersky products.

"Kaspersky Lab and Best Buy have suspended their relationship at this time; however, the relationship may be re-evaluated in the future," the two said in a joint statement.

The Best Buy-Kaspersky dissolution comes after several months of growing suspicion about just how cozy the antivirus company is with the Russian intelligence service.

But suspicion has been present for years. A 2012 report from Bloomberg discussed founder Eugene Kaspersky's ties to the Russian FSB and his background in KGB-sponsored cryptography research.

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