Kaspersky Lab could be blocked from selling to some parts of the U.S. government, with a bill passed Wednesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee that could prohibit the U.S. Defense Department from using the security vendor's software over concerns that it "might be vulnerable to Russian government influence," according to the bill.
Kaspersky has global headquarters in Moscow and has North American headquarters in Woburn, Mass. The U.S. Department of Defense, including the U.S. military, would be prohibited from using the company's software under the bill.
The bill has not yet passed into law, still needing to pass both full houses of Congress and be signed by President Donald Trump.
In an email to CRN, a Kaspersky spokesperson denied any ties to the Russian government.
"Kaspersky Lab, and its founder and CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, do not have ties to any government, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with any cyber espionage efforts. The company has a 20-year history in the IT security industry of always abiding by the highest ethical business practices, and Kaspersky Lab believes it is completely unacceptable that the company is being unjustly accused without any hard evidence to back up these false allegations. Kaspersky Lab is available to assist all concerned government organizations with any ongoing investigations, and the company ardently believes a deeper examination of Kaspersky Lab will confirm that these allegations are unfounded," the spokesperson said.
The bill builds on a growing set of tensions between Kaspersky and the federal government about the security vendor's Russian roots. Reports said FBI officials visited Kaspersky employees homes earlier this week to question them for an FBI probe.
Kaspersky partners said it was too early to tell what the full implications of the current bill would be, but said they too are getting questions from customers about the company's Russian heritage. Jon Allen, owner of South Ogden, Utah-based Proponent IT, said he has seen customers turning away from the vendor for the past few years, but said concern has accelerated as more hacking events are attributed to Russia.
"With all the hacking going on and the fingers pointing, I think a lot of people's mind-set is better be safe than sorry. Unfortunately, I think Kaspersky is getting caught up in the middle of it all," Allen said.
Allen said while he thinks the Kaspersky technology is strong, his company has had to move away from recommending it to corporate customers and home users in part because of the allegations around Russian ties. Adding to that is the compatibility challenges Kaspersky has faced around the upgrade to Windows 10, which the company is currently filing an antitrust complaint over. Allen said he now primarily recommends another antivirus vendor.
"I started getting a lot of home users [concerned about] where they were based," Allen said. "I actually stopped recommending them for home users just because that concern became more prevalent as time went by."