Russian Security Firm Kaspersky Lab Sues US Homeland Security

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Last September, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an order directing all federal agencies and departments to dump any security products provided by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab. On Monday, the firm filed an appeal in federal court challenging the DHS order.

The DHS order followed reports of potential ties between Kaspersky Lab and Russian intelligence agencies.

In its Binding Operational Directive 17-01 forbidding the use of Kaspersky Lab software, the DHS said:

This action is based on the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products on federal information systems. … The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks. The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.

In a letter posted on the company blog, co-founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky said:

DHS failed to provide Kaspersky Lab with adequate due process and relied primarily on subjective, non-technical public sources like uncorroborated and often anonymously sourced media reports and rumors in issuing and finalizing the Directive. DHS has harmed Kaspersky Lab’s reputation and its commercial operations without any evidence of wrongdoing by the company. Therefore, it is in Kaspersky Lab’s interest to defend itself in this matter.

The company, which employs about 300 people at its North American headquarters in Woburn, Massachusetts, noted that prior to the DHS order only a “relatively small” amount of revenue was generated from federal agency licenses. However the DHS action “caused a disproportionate and unwarranted adverse impact on Kaspersky Lab’s … business interests in the United States and globally.”

The DHS has provided no public documentation to support its directive nor has it responded to a letter from Kaspersky Lab offering “any information or assistance we can provide … regarding the company, its operations, or its products” other than to say “thanks, we’ll get back to you.”

Citing national security concerns has become a routine tactic for the federal government to follow when it wants to sidestep legal protections for individuals and businesses. Kaspersky is pulling against a strong tide.