Bloomberg recently reported on emails from October 2009 in which Mr. Kaspersky directs his staff to work on a secret project “per a big request on the Lubyanka side,” a reference to the F.S.B.’s Moscow offices. The McClatchy news service uncovered records of the official certification of Kaspersky Lab by Russian military intelligence, which experts in this field call “persuasive public evidence” of the company’s links to the Russian government.
The challenge to United States national security grew last year when the company launched a proprietary operating system designed for electrical grids, pipelines, telecommunications networks and other critical infrastructure. The Defense Intelligence Agency recently warned American companies that this software could enable Russian government hackers to shut down critical systems.
Beyond the evidence of direct links between Mr. Kaspersky and the Russian government, we cannot ignore the indirect links inherent in doing business in the Russia of President Vladimir Putin, where oligarchs and tycoons have no choice but to cooperate with the Kremlin. Steve Hall, former C.I.A. station chief in Moscow, told a reporter: “These guys’ families, their well-being, everything they have is in Russia.” He added that he had no doubt that Kaspersky Lab “could be, if it’s not already, under the control of Putin.”
The technical attributes of antivirus software amplify the dangers from Kaspersky Lab. Mr. Kaspersky might be correct when he says that his antivirus software does not contain a “backdoor”: code that deliberately allows access to vulnerable information.
But a backdoor is not necessary. When a user installs Kaspersky Lab software, the company gets an all-access pass to every corner of a user’s computer network, including all applications, files and emails. And because Kaspersky’s servers are in Russia, sensitive United States data is constantly cycled through a hostile country. Under Russian laws and according to Kaspersky Lab’s certification by the F.S.B., the company is required to assist the spy agency in its operations, and the F.S.B. can assign agency officers to work at the company. Russian law requires telecommunications service providers such as Kaspersky Lab to install communications interception equipment that allows the F.S.B. to monitor all of a company’s data transmissions.
The Senate Armed Services Committee in June adopted my measure to prohibit the Department of Defense from using Kaspersky Lab software, to limit fallout from what they fear is already a huge breach of national security data. When broad defense legislation comes before the Senate in the weeks ahead, they hope to amend it to ban Kaspersky software from all of the federal government.
Americans were outraged by Russia’s interference in our presidential election, but a wider threat is Russia’s doctrine of hybrid warfare, which includes cybersabotage of critical American infrastructure from nuclear plants to electrical grids. Kaspersky Lab, with an active presence in millions of computer systems in the United States, is capable of playing a powerful role in such an assault. It’s time to put a stop to this threat to our national security.
You do your own research and then decide if you would want Kaspersky software on your PC in your home.