WASHINGTON – Computer systems at 15 percent of the U.S. government were running Kaspersky Lab software which has been banned because of concerns about the company’s ties with the Kremlin and the Russian espionage operations, a top Homeland Security Department official told Congress on Tuesday.
In July, the General Services Administration Kaspersky removed from the list of approved federal suppliers. In September, the Homeland Security Department directed all U.S. federal agencies and departments to stop the use of the products or services that, directly or indirectly, by the Russian-owned and operated company.
Approximately 94 percent of all federal government departments meet the mid-October deadline to determine whether they are using all the products of Kaspersky, Jeanette Manfra, deputy secretary, told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. She said that the department is helping other agencies, who are small and do not have the tools to scan their systems.
“Of all the federal agencies, a small number have determined that the use or presence in a particular aspect of their systems, Kaspersky-branded products — about 15 percent of the agencies that have reported,” she said.
The software should be removed from all information systems in mid-December.
Kaspersky has repeatedly stressed that it is not unethical ties or ties with a government, including Russia. The company has indicated that it has never helped any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts.
The DHS directive, Kaspersky an opportunity to respond or limit the department concerned.
The department gave the company a week’s extension of the Nov. 3 deadline. It received a “significant” response on Friday, Manfra said, adding that it was examined by the lawyers of the department.
They said that lawyers have told her that the directive was legal, but she has also raised the possibility that Kaspersky could file a lawsuit against the government over the ban.
The chief executive of the company, Eugene Kaspersky, is a mathematical engineer who participated in a KGB-sponsored school and once worked for the Ministry of Defence. His critics say that it is unlikely that his company could operate independently in Russia, where the economy is dominated by state-owned companies and the strength of spy and security services greatly expanded under President Vladimir Putin.
At a Senate intelligence committee hearing in May, the top U.S. officials were asked if they feel comfortable with the Kaspersky software on their computers.
“No” was the answer given by the then acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, National Intelligence Director Than Jackets, National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo and then-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart.