MOSCOW (Sputnik) – On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Securitydemanded that federal departments and agencies stop using Kaspersky Lab products within the next 90 days, citing the company's alleged links to the Russian government and related threats to national security.
This step appears to be a continuation of US allegations that Moscow had interfered in the US presidential election, which Russia officials have repeatedly denied, stressing that the claims remain unsubstantiated.
Several experts have agreed that the US government has not shown any evidence of Kaspersky Lab’s ties to the Russian government or examples of what aspects of its products constituted a threat to US national security.
"The reason behind this decision remains vague. DHS [Department of Homeland Security] says their decision is based on a threat risk assessment of the Kaspersky products," Steve Waterhouse, a cybersecurity specialist with Infosecsw and former information systems security officer with the Canadian Department of National Defence, told Sputnik.
Waterhouse pointed out that Kaspersky Lab had offered to have their source code analyzed by the US government.Graham Cluley, an independent computer security expert who previously held senior roles at Sophos and McAfee, also told Sputnik that he had seen "no evidence of Kaspersky having any inappropriate interaction with the Russian government."
Cluley added that there appeared to have been no proof so far of Kaspersky software being a threat to US customers.
"Homeland Security has admitted that its directive is not based on any hard evidence of compromise or potential compromise, but merely the supposed ‘links’ between Kaspersky and the Kremlin," UK Barrister Sandip Patel told Sputnik.
Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky said Thursday that he would testify at a hearing of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology on September 27, if he gets an expedited visa. However, Patel, who has been at the forefront of cases involving cybercrime and cybersecurity, is not particularly optimistic about Kaspersky Lab’s rehabilitation.
The expert said that "no credible evidence" had been publicly presented, adding that it seemed unlikely that the US intelligence community would share their information with the company.
"Will Kaspersky have a fair hearing in the US? I doubt it … It appears that Kaspersky has been found guilty without trial," Patel said.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS’ COLLATERAL DAMAGE
According to Patel, the ban, as a "drastic step against a universally used and praised technology company," was almost without precedent.
"The US Department of Homeland Security has effectively accused Kaspersky of cyber espionage on behalf of the Kremlin and Russian spy agencies by its decision to ban government agencies from using Kaspersky products," Patel said.
Matthew Hickey, co-founder and director of security firm Hacker House, also said that there did not seem to be any evidence of wrongdoing by Kaspersky.
"The news that the US Department of Homeland Security has blocked Kaspersky products is nothing short of fear mongering and paranoia of a ‘Russia threat’," Hickey said.
"It is a sad situation where you have a technological tool mixed in politics between two countries. If things go south with the UK, does that mean all TrendMicro or Sophos products will no more be allowed? Or with Finland so no F-Secure products are used no more?" Waterhouse said.
Cluley noted that, unless shown evidence to the contrary, he would have to consider Kaspersky Lab an "unfortunate victim of anti-Russian hysteria."
The expert also pointed out that, if one was worried about the software designed in Russia, the next step might be becoming "concerned about the myriad of technology used throughout American homes and businesses which rely upon — for instance — Chinese developers and manufacturers."
BOON FOR COMPETITION, RISKS TO CONSUMERS
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that US Department of Homeland Security’s Wednesday directive seemed aimed at undermining Russian companies.Cluley mentioned that he had already seen "non-Russian security companies take advantage of the current smear campaign against Kaspersky to promote their own solutions, which I find rather distasteful."
While the DHS order concerned only state agencies, the repercussions have been more wide-reaching. Top US electronics retailer Best Buy has pulled Kaspersky Lab’s products amid worries over the company’s purported affiliation with,Moscow.
According to Hickey, the ban on Kaspersky may backfire given the products’ high quality.
"The US DHS has shot itself in the foot by removing one of the most notoriously difficult pieces of software that implements many advanced methods for detecting threats. I do not think it is right to ban such firms, especially when Kaspersky has offered to cooperate and assist with any such investigation," the expert said.
Hickey expressed hope that the United States would look at global approaches to cybersecurity issues, which require cooperation.
Kaspersky Lab said Tuesday that it remained committed to the US market and was planning to open three new offices in the United States in 2018.