WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Tuesday removed Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab from two lists of approved vendors used by government agencies to purchase technology equipment, amid concerns the cyber security firm’s products could be used by the Kremlin to gain entry into U.S. networks.
The delisting represents the most concrete action taken against Kaspersky following months of mounting suspicion among intelligence officials and lawmakers that the company may be too closely connected to hostile Russian intelligence agencies accused of cyber attacks on the United States.
Kaspersky products have been removed from the U.S. General Services Administration’s list of vendors for contracts that cover information technology services and digital photographic equipment, an agency spokeswoman said in a statement.
The action was taken “after review and careful consideration,” the spokeswoman said, adding that GSA’s priorities “are to ensure the integrity and security of U.S. government systems and networks.”
Government agencies will still be able to use Kaspersky products purchased separate from the GSA contract process.
Kaspersky’s anti-virus software is popular in the United States and around the world, and the firm has been a leading player in the cyber security market for decades.
In a statement, Kaspersky Lab said it had not received any updates from GSA or any other U.S. government agency regarding its vendor status.
“Kaspersky Lab has no ties to any government, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts,” the company said.
It added that it had been “caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight where each side is attempting to use the company as a pawn in their political game.”
The delisting was done the same day that ABC News reported the Trump administration was considering implementing a broader ban that would block agencies from using Kaspersky software.
Last month the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a defense spending policy bill that would ban Kaspersky products from use in the military. The move came a day after the FBI interviewed several of the company’s U.S. employees at their private homes as part of a counterintelligence investigation into its operations.
In May senior U.S. intelligence officials said in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that they were reviewing government use of software from Kaspersky Lab.
Lawmakers raised concerns that Moscow might use the firm’s products to attack American computer networks, a particularly sensitive issue given allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia hacked and leaked emails of Democratic Party political groups to interfere in the 2016 presidential election campaign. Russia denies the allegations.