The federal government moved Wednesday to wipe from its computer systems any software made by a prominent Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, that is being investigated by the FBI for possible links to Russian security services.
The concerns surrounding Kaspersky, whose software is sold throughout the United States, are long-standing. The FBI, aided by U.S. spies, has for years been trying to determine whether Kaspersky’s senior executives are working with Russian military and intelligence, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The FBI has also been investigating whether Kaspersky software, including its well-regarded anti-virus programs, contains back doors that could allow Russian intelligence access to computers on which it is running. The company denies the allegations.
The officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiries are classified, would not provide details of the information they have collected on Kaspersky. But on Wednesday, Elaine C. Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, ordered federal agencies to develop plans to remove Kaspersky software from government systems in the next 90 days.
Wednesday’s announcement is the latest instance of the apparent disconnect between the Trump White House, which has often downplayed the threat of Russian interference to the country’s infrastructure, and front-line U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials, who are engaged in a perpetual shadow war against Moscow-directed operatives.
Kaspersky’s business in the United States appears to be the latest casualty in those spy wars. Best Buy 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 U.S. government agencies.
Kaspersky is considered one of the foremost cybersecurity research firms in the world and has considerable expertise in designing anti-virus 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 founding Kaspersky Lab in 1997.