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Kaspersky Lab becomes first Russian company added to US “national security threat” blacklist

What just happened? Cybersecurity giant AO Kaspersky Lab has become the first Russian company added to the FCC list of entities deemed an unacceptable threat to US national security. The move comes soon after the German government advised users of Kaspersky software that they could be susceptible to cyberattacks or snooping.

Kaspersky Lab joins Chinese telecom firms Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp on the list, along with China Mobile (USA) and China Telecom (Americas), both of which were added at the same time as the Russian company.

Earlier this month, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) issued a warning to Kaspersky users following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, warning that the company could “carry out offensive operations itself, be forced against its will to attack target systems, or be spied on as a victim of a cyber operation without its knowledge or as a tool for attacks against its own customers.”

Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab argued that the German advisory is based on political motivations and not technical assessments. While the FCC made no mention of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or President Biden’s recent warning for US firms to bolster their cyber defenses in preparation for inevitable Russian attacks, Kaspersky Lab said the decision was “made on political grounds.” It added that the move was “a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services.”

If a company is placed on the list, money from the FCC’s $8 billion annual Universal Service Fund cannot be used to purchase or maintain its products.

ITWire notes that vulnerability coordination and bug bounty platform HackerOne stopped doing business with Kaspersky Lab on March 16.

In 2017, Kaspersky Lab faced claims over a possible compromise of its source code by Moscow. President Trump banned the use of its antivirus products on federal government machines in the same year, for which Kaspersky Lab filed a lawsuit. The company says it moved its data-processing infrastructure to Switzerland in 2018 and has continuously denied it has any links to or could be coerced by the Russian government. But the fact co-founder Yevgeny (Eugene) Kaspersky previously worked for the Russian military and was educated at a KGB-sponsored technical college hasn’t helped its cause.

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