‘Caught in geopolitical battle’: US govt strikes off Kaspersky from vendor lists – report

‘Caught in geopolitical battle’: US govt strikes off Kaspersky from vendor lists – report
US General Services Administration (GSA) has reportedly deleted Russia’s cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab from two lists of government contractors, citing a need to “ensure integrity and security.” Kaspersky says his company is the victim of a political game.

The two lists in question reportedly are that of outside vendors providing US governmental agencies with information technology services and digital photographic equipment, Reuters cited the GSA’s spokesperson as saying. 

The company was banished “after review and careful consideration,” the spokesperson noted. While she did not throw any accusations at the company, she stressed that the GSA is focused on preserving “the integrity and security of US government system networks.”

The move comes less than a day after Bloomberg magazine published an article, accusing the Moscow-based world leader in cybersecurity of close ties to Russia’s security service, the FSB. The report, titled “Kaspersky Lab has been working with Russian Intelligence” alleged that the magazine had got hold of internal communication that explicitly show that Kaspersky Lab “has maintained a much closer working relationship” with FSB “than it has publicly admitted.”

Among the allegations put forward in the investigative piece by Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley is the claim that the firm allegedly participated in developing security tools “at the spy’s agency behest” and was involved in projects with the FSB that the firm’s CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, deems to be “embarrassing” to shed light onto.

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Kaspersky, who previously denied all the claims of collusion with the Kremlin, denounced the report as an example of “banya journalism” and demanded the authors provide the internal emails on which the magazine claims to have based the story.

“Numerous allegations, misinterpretations & fakes. This story is BS brewed on political agenda,” Kaspersky stated on Twitter, adding that the claim that his firm had confirmed the authenticity of the emails was incorrect.

Meanwhile, the journalists refused to share the emails, with Robertson saying that they would not provide any documents that “could compromise sources.” Instead, he called on Kaspersky to read them “on your own e-mail server” in a heated Twitter row.

In an extended statement posted on Kaspersky Lab website late Tuesday, the cyber-security firm insisted it had never have a chance to verify the emails’ authenticity, adding that the document might be “an internal email that contains routine business chatter regarding product development.”

It further argued that the emails could not serve as proof of any ties of the security firm with the FSB, as “the communication was misinterpreted or manipulated to try to make the media outlet’s narrative work.”

Kasperky Lab stressed that it had never launched DDoS attacks on behalf of the Russian government or any other entity. The statement noted that the company did carry out research on “active countermeasures,” but for the purpose of retaliating against DDoS attacks if one is mounted against its customers.

Acknowledging that the firm routinely helps law enforcement to wipe out cybercrime, including in Russia, it said that it is doing so only at the level of technical expertise, flatly denying that it ever assisted government agencies in tracing and hunting down people.

Responding to its reported exclusion from vendors lists, Kaspersky Lab reiterated that it “has no ties to any government” and is a victim of a political battle. The firm is “caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight where each side is attempting to use the company as a pawn,” it said in a statement, cited by Reuters.

It went on to note that it had not been so far informed by the US government agency of the amendments to its status as a contractor.

The measure itself does not ban the Kaspersky products from being used by the US government, but rather prevents it from securing contracts through the GSA mechanism. Its timing coincides with reports that Washington mulls blocking all federal agencies from using Kaspersky Lab software. 

In the recent months, Kaspersky Lab became a subject of tight scrutiny by the US law enforcement and Congress alike. In June, the FBI questioned its employees all over the US while the US senators approved a draft defense policy spending bill aimed at barring Pentagon from using its software. The increased pressure on the firm prompted Eugene Kaspersky to offer the US authorities to testify in Congress and disclose the source code of his firm’s software to the US government.