US bans Russia's Kaspersky antivirus software over "national security risk"

Washington DC - President Joe Biden's administration on Thursday banned Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky from providing its popular antivirus products in the US over national security concerns, the Commerce Department said.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo  © JIM WATSON / AFP

"Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use," the agency said in a statement.

The announcement came after a lengthy investigation found Kaspersky's "continued operations in the United States presented a national security risk due to the Russian Government's offensive cyber capabilities and capacity to influence or direct Kaspersky's operations," it said.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said "Russia has shown time and again they have the capability and intent to exploit Russian companies, like Kaspersky Lab, to collect and weaponize sensitive US information."

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Kaspersky, in a statement to AFP, said the Commerce Department "made its decision based on the present geopolitical climate and theoretical concerns," and vowed to "pursue all legally available options to preserve its current operations and relationships."

"Kaspersky does not engage in activities which threaten US national security and, in fact, has made significant contributions with its reporting and protection from a variety of threat actors that targeted US interests and allies," the company said.

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The headquarters of Kaspersky Lab, Russia's leading antivirus software development company, in Moscow.
The headquarters of Kaspersky Lab, Russia's leading antivirus software development company, in Moscow.  © KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

The move is the first such action taken since an executive order issued under Donald Trump's presidency gave the Commerce Department the power to investigate whether certain companies pose a national security risk.

Raimondo said the Commerce Department's actions demonstrated to America's adversaries that it would not hesitate to act when "their technology poses a risk to the United States and its citizens."

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

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As well as banning the sale of Kaspersky's antivirus software, the Commerce Department also added three entities linked to the firm to a list of companies deemed to be a national security concern, "for their cooperation with Russian military and intelligence authorities in support of the Russian government's cyber intelligence objectives."

The Commerce Department said it "strongly encouraged" users to switch to new vendors, although its decision does not ban them from using the software should they choose to do so.

Kaspersky is allowed to continue certain operations in the US, including providing antivirus updates, until September 29 this year "in order to minimize disruption to US consumers and businesses and to give them time to find suitable alternatives," it added.

Cover photo: Collage: Jim WATSON / AFP & KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

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