US bans Kaspersky antivirus software over alleged links to Russia

Comment on the photo, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab

  • author, Graeme Baker
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

The United States has announced plans to ban the sale of antivirus software produced by Russian company Kaspersky due to its alleged links to the Kremlin.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Thursday that Moscow’s influence over the company poses a significant risk to American infrastructure and services.

She said the United States was forced to take action because of Russia’s “ability and intent…to collect and weaponize Americans’ personal information.”

“Kaspersky generally will not be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” the Commerce Department said.

Kaspersky said it intends to pursue “all legally available options” to fight the ban, and denied its involvement in any activity that threatens American security.

The plan uses broad powers created by the Trump administration to ban or restrict transactions between American companies and technology companies from “foreign adversary” countries such as Russia and China.

The plan will effectively prevent downloads of software updates, resales, and product licensing as of September 29, and new business will be restricted within 30 days of the announcement.

Sellers and distributors who violate the restrictions will face fines from the Department of Commerce.

The company has long been a target of US regulators. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security banned its main antivirus product from federal networks, claiming ties to Russian intelligence.

While the multinational company is headquartered in Moscow, it has offices in 31 countries around the world, serving more than 400 million users and 270,000 corporate clients in more than 200 countries, the Commerce Ministry said.

The number of affected customers in the United States is classified as confidential business data.

However, Reuters quoted a Commerce Department official as saying that this is a “large number” and includes state and local governments and companies that provide communications, energy and health care.

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