Kaspersky’s business in the United States now appears to be the latest casualty in those spy wars. Best Buy, the electronics giant, announced last week that it was pulling Kaspersky Lab’s cybersecurity products from its shelves and website, and the Senate is voting this week on a defense-spending bill that would ban Kaspersky Lab products from being used by American government agencies, effectively codifying Wednesday’s directive into law.
Kaspersky is considered one of the foremost cybersecurity research firms in the world, and has considerable expertise in designing antivirus software and tools to uncover spyware used by Western intelligence services. The company was founded by Eugene V. Kaspersky, who attended a high school that trained Russian spies, and later wrote software for the Soviet Army before going on to found Kaspersky Lab in 1997. He has insisted that neither he nor his company have active ties to the Russian military or intelligence services.
Yet despite its prominence in the cybersecurity world, its origins in Russia have for years fueled suspicions about its possible ties to Russia’s intelligence agencies. Federal officials have warned private companies to avoid Kaspersky software, and earlier this year the firm was removed from two lists of approved vendors used by government agencies to purchase technology.
At a Senate hearing in May, a number of senior American security officials, including the chiefs of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., were even more blunt when asked if they would be comfortable with Kaspersky software running on their agencies’ systems: “No,” they said.
Still, Kaspersky’s software is believed to be used in many federal agencies, especially its antivirus products, though there is no reliable estimate of its ubiquity — government computer systems tend be a jumbled-together collection of often-aging software and hardware, and no central authority keeps track of who uses what.
Kaspersky’s software is also widely used by state governments and ordinary Americans. The company says it has more than 400 million users around the world. It also has a robust business analyzing and investigating cyberthreats.
“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,” Ms. Duke said in a statement.
Kaspersky said it was disappointed with Homeland Security’s decision and denied any ties to the Russian government.