DHS Directs Agencies to Remove Kaspersky Software Within 90 Days
This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent a binding operational directive (BOD) to federal agencies, establishing a 30 day deadline to determine whether their agency relies on any products from Kaspersky Lab, and a 60 day deadline to remove all Kaspersky products from their systems, once they are identified.
Kaspersky Lab is a prominent software developer specializing in cybersecurity applications, such as its widely-used antivirus programs. The company is currently being investigated by the FBI for ties to the Russian government.
The New York Times writes, “The concerns surrounding Kaspersky, whose software is sold throughout the United States, are longstanding. The F.B.I., aided by American spies, has for years been trying to determine whether Kaspersky’s senior executives are working with Russian military and intelligence, according to current and former American officials. The F.B.I. has also been investigating whether Kaspersky software, including its well-regarded antivirus programs, contain back doors that could allow Russian intelligence access into computers on which it is running.”
Company representatives have expressed disappointment at DHS’ decision and have steadfastly denied the allegations. A DHS spokesperson indicated the company would have an opportunity to officially respond.
“The department wants to ensure that the company has a full opportunity to inform the Acting Secretary of any evidence, materials, or data that may be relevant,” according to DHS. “This opportunity is also available to any other entity that claims its commercial interests will be directly impacted by the directive.”
In its statement announcing the directive, DHS wrote:
This action is based on the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products on federal information systems. 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. The department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allows Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks. 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.
Federal News Radio writes that this is the fifth DHS BOD since the agency was granted the authority by Congress in 2014.
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