Kaspersky Lab is once again facing challenges when it comes to its Russian heritage, with reports out Tuesday that it might be blocked from selling to the entire federal government and that it had worked with Russian intelligence.
According to an ABC report, citing unnamed government sources, the Trump administration is considering removing Kaspersky from the GSA Schedule, which would prevent all federal agencies from buying its solutions. The report said a decision could emerge in the next few days.
Kaspersky has global headquarters in Moscow and has North American headquarters in Woburn, Mass.
The Senate Armed Services Committee last month passed a bill to prohibit the U.S. Defense Department from using the security vendor's software over concerns that it "might be vulnerable to Russian government influence." The bill still needs to make its way through Congress before being signed by President Donald Trump.
A second report, in Bloomberg, also alleged that Kaspersky had been working with the Russian intelligence agency FSB, citing internal emails it had obtained. It said the relationship included developing technologies for the agency to prevent against DDoS attacks.
Kaspersky published a lengthy blog post slamming the reports, particularly the latter Bloomberg report on its alleged relationship with the Russian intelligence community. Kaspersky said it "regularly" works with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world, but does "not have inappropriate ties with any government."
The report alleged that Kaspersky had worked in tandem with the Russian government around its anti-virus and DDoS prevention offerings. It also said it had cooperated with hosting companies and the FSB to provide intelligence on hackers and their locations for raids. Kaspersky denied all of these claims, saying it regularly works with other vendors to integrate its technologies through licensing agreements, that the Russian government is not a Kaspersky Lab DDoS Protection client, and makes hourly updates to the software in a secure way (not communicating private information).
"In the internal communications referenced within the recent article, the facts are once again either being misinterpreted or manipulated to fit the agenda of certain individuals desperately wanting there to be inappropriate ties between the company, its CEO and the Russian government, but no matter what communication they claim to have, the facts clearly remain there is no evidence because no such inappropriate ties exist," Kaspersky Lab said in an official statement.
Partners said they weren't particularly concerned about the reports. One partner, who did not want to be identified, called the moves "par for the course" for working with a foreign vendor. He predicated ultimately that it would little to no impact on Kaspersky.
Michael Knight, president and CTO of Encore Technology Group, a Greenville, S.C.-based solution provider, said in an email that the moves appear to be "political jockeying" between the two countries, with Kaspersky caught in the middle.
Knight said other major vendors, including Cisco, have worked with federal agencies, including the NSA, FBI and DOJ without problem. While Kaspersky likely has worked with the Russian government in the past, he said there is a "major difference between working with them to solve state crimes versus cyber espionage."
"I do not believe Kaspersky has been involved in Nation-State Cyber Crimes the same way I don’t think that Cisco has been an active player although their technology may have been used to do different things," Knight said.