The fate of Kaspersky Labs within the U.S. government appears to be in a death spiral as fresh reports seem to link the Russian cybersecurity company directly to Russian government intelligence and security agencies, a long founded claim disavowed by the company's chief.
Internal emails from Kaspersky, obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek, reveal a closer than publicly stated relationship with the Russian FSB. Eugene Kaspersky, the company's CEO, has on several occasions publicly disputed ties to the Russian government.
The emails highlighted a conversation concerning a project aimed at protecting clients from distributed denial of service attacks. "The project includes both technology to protect against attacks (filters) as well as interaction with the hosters ('spreading' of sacrifice) and active countermeasures (about which, we keep quiet) and so on," Bloomberg quoted Kaspersky as writing in one email.
Following the Bloomberg article, Kaspersky Lab issued a lengthy statement that sought to dispute the article's claims point by point.
"Regardless of how the facts are misconstrued to fit in with a hypothetical, false theory, Kaspersky Lab, and its executives, do not have inappropriate ties with any government," part of the statement from Kaspersky Lab stated. "The company does regularly work with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world with the sole purpose of fighting cybercrime."
It continued: "In the internal communications referenced within the recent article, the facts are once again either being misinterpreted or manipulated to fit the agenda of certain individuals desperately wanting there to be inappropriate ties between the company, its CEO and the Russian government, but no matter what communication they claim to have, the facts clearly remain there is no evidence because no such inappropriate ties exist."
Separately, ABC reported Tuesday that the Trump administration could be considering a government-wide ban on all Kaspersky products, with a decision coming potentially in the next few days.
"Removing Kaspersky Lab … would likely only impact future contracts," ABC reports.
This also follows the unusual comments from the president over the weekend following his historic first meeting with Russia's president Vladimir Putin on the prospects of forming a "cyber security unit" aimed at combating election hacking, only to be backtracked days later by President Donald Trump himself.
U.S. intelligence community officials have long been skeptical of Kaspersky products being used within the government and critical infrastructure.
"The concern over Kaspersky is well founded and I think that there's growing recognition – there has been for a while and more recently [within] Congress – that we probably don't want that in really significant parts of the government or critical infrastructure networks," Richard Ledgett, who was most recently deputy director of NSA until his retirement at the end of April, said in a recent podcast. Ledgett, like most current officials, noted there is much he cannot say on this topic.
There is bipartisan opposition to Kaspersky Labs products in government within the halls of Congress.
During an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in May, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., raised the issue of Kaspersky Labs, asking the heads of the six major U.S. intelligence agencies, including the director of national intelligence, if they would be conformable with Kaspersky Labs products on their computers. The answer was a resounding no from each witness.
Later in the hearing, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., told the witnesses Congress is very much concerned with this issue, directing his line of questioning toward ensuring contractors that do business with the intelligence agencies are not using Kaspersky products in their work with the government.