Exclusive: Congress asks
U.S. agencies for Kaspersky Lab cyber documents
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[July 29, 2017]
By Dustin Volz
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional
panel this week asked 22 government agencies to share documents on
Moscow-based cyber firm Kaspersky Lab, saying its products could be used
to carry out "nefarious activities against the United States," according
to letters seen by Reuters.
The requests made on Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Science, Space and Technology are the latest blow to the
antivirus company, which has been countering accusations by U.S.
officials that it may be vulnerable to Russian government influence.
The committee asked the agencies for all documents and communications
about Kaspersky Lab products dating back to Jan. 1, 2013, including any
internal risk assessments. It also requested lists of any systems that
use Kaspersky products and the names of any U.S. government contractors
or subcontractors that do so.
Kaspersky has repeatedly denied that it has ties to any government and
said it would not help any government with cyber espionage. It said
there is no evidence for the accusations made by U.S. officials.
The committee "is concerned that Kaspersky Lab is susceptible to
manipulation by the Russian government, and that its products could be
used as a tool for espionage, sabotage, or other nefarious activities
against the United States," wrote the panel's Republican chairman, Lamar
Smith, in the letters.
They were sent to all Cabinet-level agencies, including the Department
of Commerce and Department of Homeland Security, as well as the
Environmental Protection Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, among others.
A committee aide told Reuters the survey was a "first step" designed to
canvas the U.S. government and that more action may follow depending on
the results. The committee asked for responses by Aug. 11.
Kaspersky Lab, founded in 1997 and now counts over 400 million global
customers, has tried largely in vain to become a vendor to the U.S.
government, one of the world's biggest buyers of cyber tools.
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A general view of the headquarters of Russian cyber security company
Kaspersky Labs in Moscow July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei
Longstanding suspicions about the company grew in the United States when
U.S.-Russia relations deteriorated following Russia's 2014 annexation of
Crimea and later when U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia
interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election using cyber means.
Congress this week slapped new sanctions on Russia, in part in response
to the allegations, which Moscow flatly denies. Moscow retaliated by
ordering out some U.S. diplomats.
U.S. intelligence chiefs in May publicly expressed doubt about the
safety of Kaspersky products for the first time, although they offered
no specific evidence of any wrongdoing. The government is reviewing how
many agencies use software from Kaspersky Lab.
In June, FBI agents visited the homes of Kaspersky employees as part of
a counterintelligence probe, two sources familiar with the matter said.
The Trump administration also took steps to remove Kaspersky from a list
of approved government vendors.
A defense spending policy bill advancing in the U.S. Senate would
prohibit the Department of Defense from using Kaspersky products.
Kaspersky employees attending the annual Black Hat conference in Las
Vegas this week appeared to be largely taking the setbacks in stride.
The company cheekily hosted a party at the "Red Square" restaurant and
bar, where it invited attendees to don fur coats before entering a vodka
freezer to enjoy high-end imported bottles of alcohol.
On Tuesday, the company launched a free, global version of its antivirus
software, saying in a blog post that it would help "secure the whole
(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Grant McCool)
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