In brief: The Biden administration has been ramping up the pressure on antivirus software giant Kaspersky Lab since the start of the Ukraine war over fears Russia could use its products to spy on western governments, agencies, and companies.
Reuters reports that the US launched a security probe into Kaspersky Lab last year. It was referred to the Commerce Department by the Department of Justice, but Commerce made little progress on the case.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, however, the White House urged the Commerce Department to move forward with the probe as it feared federal contractors and operators of critical US infrastructure who use Kaspersky Lab software could be at risk of infiltration.
We welcome the start of negotiations to resolve the current situation in Ukraine and hope that they will lead to a cessation of hostilities and a compromise. We believe that peaceful dialogue is the only possible instrument for resolving conflicts. War isn’t good for anyone.
— Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) March 1, 2022
The White House was quick to take action against Kaspersky Lab following Russia’s actions. It became the first Russian company added to the FCC list of entities deemed an unacceptable threat to US national security in March. The designation came soon after Germany warned its citizens to stop using the company’s software, something Kaspersky Lab said was “a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services.”
Kaspersky Lab was under the microscope of suspicion long before the Ukraine invasion. It faced claims in 2017 over a possible compromise of its source code by Moscow, and President Trump banned the use of its antivirus products on federal government machines in the same year, for which the company filed a lawsuit.
Precisely what extra measures the US could take against Kaspersky Lab as a result of the probe’s findings are unclear, though there’s always the possibility that its products will be banned entirely in the United States.
Kaspersky Lab has long denied it has any links to or could be coerced by the Russian government. The company says it moved its data-processing infrastructure to Switzerland in 2018.