U.S. Bans Kaspersky Software For Federal Agencies Amid Security Concerns

Sep 13, 2017
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Kaspersky Labs is a big Moscow-based company that makes antivirus software. It's used worldwide, even by some American government agencies. Now that may be over, at least for the U.S. government. The Department of Homeland Security issued a directive today that effectively bans all federal entities from using Kaspersky software or even having any products tied to it. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The directive banning Kaspersky products was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke just hours after the U.S. Senate began debating a defense bill with a similar ban that applies only to the Pentagon. New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has led the effort in Congress to forbid federal agencies from using Kaspersky products, and she says she's pleased the Trump administration is also taking action.

JEANNE SHAHEEN: I applaud the department and acting Secretary Duke for issuing this directive that calls on all departments and agencies to identify any use or presence of Kaspersky products on their systems and to develop plans to get rid of them.

WELNA: The DHS gives agencies up to 90 days to start implementing its plan to discontinue use of Kaspersky products, then remove them from all federal government information systems. Senator Shaheen says there are ample grounds to impose such a ban.

SHAHEEN: Certainly there have been concerns raised both publicly. There are concerns on record and some that suggest there has been direct collaboration with certain officials from Kaspersky and from the FSB, which is of course the successor to the KGB. There is also classified information that raises concerns.

WELNA: Those concerns about Kaspersky went public in May when Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio posed this question to the chiefs of six U.S. spy agencies.

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MARCO RUBIO: Would any of you be comfortable with Kaspersky Lab software on your computers?

WELNA: All six answered no. Shaheen says that for her, it was a key moment.

SHAHEEN: They were not comfortable with Kaspersky software on their computers. And if they're not comfortable, then I don't think the rest of the federal government should be comfortable.

WELNA: In an emailed statement, Kaspersky Labs said it was disappointed by the decision to ban its products. It said the company has never helped any government anywhere with cyber-espionage and added that it's, quote, "disconcerting that a private company can be considered guilty until proven innocent due to geopolitical issues."

In its directive, the DHS invites Kaspersky to address the department's concerns. Kaspersky Labs says it looks forward to showing that the allegations made against it are without merit. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

SHAPIRO: And we should note that Kaspersky Labs is among NPR's corporate underwriters. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.