The Department of Homeland Security has banned the use of Russian-made antivirus software across all federal computer networks.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced in a binding directive issued Wednesday a total ban on the use of any products in the federal government engineered by AO Kaspersky Lab, a Russian-based company that develops antivirus software, among other things. Kaspersky’s headquarters is located in Moscow, but has locations all over the world.
Now that U.S.-Russia relations have taken a turn for the worse after the U.S. intelligence community determined Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, Kaspersky appears to be the latest casualty of the conflict.
The directive states that federal agencies must check their networks to see if they’re using any Kaspersky products within 30 days and fully remove them within 90 days.
“This action is based on the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products on federal information systems,” the DHS said in a statement. “Kaspersky anti-virus products and solutions provide broad access to files and elevated privileges on the computers on which the software is installed, which can be exploited by malicious cyber actors to compromise those information systems.”
Part of the problem with Kaspersky is certain company officials, according to DHS, have ties with Russian intelligence, which means it’s possible Kaspersky could share sensitive information garnered from federal networks with the Russian government. For example, Kaspersky’s founder, Eugene Kaspersky, studied at a KGB-backed university.
For DHS, even the possibility of such sharing is an unacceptable risk to national security.
“The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security,” the DHS said.
Given the DHS’ decision, New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s defense budget bill amendment to ban Kaspersky products in the federal government is now redundant, which for Shaheen is a welcome outcome.
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