US bans Kaspersky antivirus software over national security concerns

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The United States on Thursday banned Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky from providing its popular antivirus products in the country on national security grounds, the US Commerce Department announced.

“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 announcing the action, which it said is the first of its kind.

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The announcement came after a lengthy investigation which found that 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 added.

Kaspersky did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision.

“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,” US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

The Commerce Department’s actions demonstrate to America’s adversaries that it would not hesitate to act when “their technology poses a risk to the United States and its citizens,” she added.

The move is the first such action taken since a Trump-era executive order gave the Commerce Department the power to investigate whether certain companies pose a national security risk.

While the multinational firm 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.

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.”

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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 United States, 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.

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