Biden To Ban Sale of Kaspersky Antivirus in the U.S.

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On Thursday, the Biden administration announced plans to ban the sale of antivirus software from Russia’s Kaspersky Lab in the United States.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo cited Russia’s influence over the company as a significant security risk.

According to a source, the software’s privileged access to computer systems could allow it to steal sensitive information or install malware, posing a threat to critical infrastructure providers and state and local governments that use Kaspersky’s products.

Raimondo emphasized that Russia has the capability and intent to exploit companies like Kaspersky to gather and weaponize Americans’ personal information, necessitating the administration’s action.

Kaspersky, in response, argued that the U.S. decision was influenced by geopolitical concerns rather than a thorough assessment of the company’s products and services. They denied posing any threat to U.S. national security and indicated plans to pursue legal action.

The Russian Embassy did not comment on the situation. Kaspersky has previously asserted its independence from the Russian government. The new rule, utilizing broad powers established during former President Trump’s administration, will also add three units of Kaspersky to a trade restriction list, which could damage the company’s international sales.

The Biden administration aims to eliminate any risks of Russian cyberattacks through Kaspersky software and continues to pressure Moscow amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The administration is leveraging a powerful new authority to restrict transactions between U.S. firms and tech companies from “foreign adversary” nations like Russia and China.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, supported the move, stating that it would be unthinkable to allow Russian software with deep access to American devices.

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The new restrictions on Kaspersky software sales, updates, resales, and licensing will take effect on September 29, 100 days after their announcement. New U.S. business with Kaspersky will be blocked 30 days after the restrictions are announced. White-labelled products incorporating Kaspersky software will also be banned, and the Commerce Department will notify companies before enforcing the restrictions.

Two Russian and one UK-based unit of Kaspersky will be added to the entity list for allegedly aiding Russian military intelligence. While Kaspersky’s Russian business is already under U.S. export restrictions due to the Ukraine invasion, the UK-based unit will now also be barred from receiving goods from American suppliers.

Kaspersky has been under scrutiny for years. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security banned its antivirus product from federal networks, citing alleged ties to Russian intelligence and a law enabling Russian agencies to compel Kaspersky’s assistance. The company was also implicated in a case where hacking tools from a National Security Agency employee ended up with the Russian government, though Kaspersky claimed it had only stumbled upon the code and no third parties saw it.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pressure on Kaspersky increased. The U.S. government warned some companies about potential manipulation of Kaspersky software by Moscow. This led to an intensified national security probe by the Commerce Department, resulting in Thursday’s action.

Violations of the new restrictions by sellers and resellers will incur fines from the Commerce Department, and violators could face criminal charges from the Justice Department. Users of the software will not face legal penalties but will be strongly encouraged to stop using it.

Kaspersky, which reported $752 million in revenue in 2022, has a British holding company and operations in Massachusetts, serving over 220,000 corporate clients globally.

Source Reuters

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