U.S. Government Bans Kaspersky Lab Without Cause

The U.S. government has decided to ban Kaspersky Lab products from all U.S. government computers because some individuals in the U.S. Intelligence Community are afraid that the Kremlin can influence the Russian company to conduct espionage via its installed programs.

The ban is both malicious and ignorant. It’s ignorant because Kaspersky Lab has data on malware coming out of Russia and the CIS that no one else has. By banning their products, the U.S. government has blocked its best source of cyber threat intelligence coming out of a region where it desperately needs it.

It’s malicious because there’s no basis in fact for the charge that Kaspersky products have a backdoor. As I wrote back on May 12, it’s a simple matter to install Kaspersky AV on a honey server on DoD or DoJ network and dangle some bait over a period of weeks or months. The only thing that will happen is that that server won’t get infected by any malware that Kaspersky AV can stop.

Further, even if the FSB wanted to force the issue with the company, it would be a terrible tactical decision since Kaspersky isn’t widely used in the U.S. government anyway, the backdoor could be easily discovered, and one of the most successful AV companies in the world would be out of business overnight. The risk-reward calculus makes no sense. A much better strategy would be to covertly compromise Intel’s software development center in Nizhny Novgorod and do what the NSA attempted to do with Huawei — install a backdoor. It’s almost impossible to detect and even if you suspected it, how do you ban Intel?

The bottom line is that if you’re serious about cyber security for your organization, you need global resources — particularly in Russia and the CIS. This ban simply underscores how dysfunctional the U.S. government has become; making decisions out of fear and ignorance with a side helping of politics.

DISCLAIMER: I’m pleased to announce that Kaspersky Lab is a sponsor of the Securing Mobility Summit at AutoMobility LA and will be discussing its work with Scuderia Ferrari’s F1 racing team.

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