President Trump escalated the U.S. government's war against Kaspersky Lab last week with an order banning the use of all of the security firm's antivirus software on government machines. In an attempt to clear its name, the Russian company has decided to appeal in order to overturn the decision.
This week, Kaspersky Lab filed an appeal in federal court challenging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) Binding Operational Directive 17-01, which requires federal agencies and departments to remove the company’s products from federal information and federal information systems. The company did not undertake this action lightly, but maintains that 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.
Kaspersky said that it has made numerous efforts to work with the government to allay any fears that it is working with the Kremlin in an effort to subvert the U.S. government.
In the letter, Kaspersky claims that the DHS has relied on unsubstantiated media reports of it being a security risk without any actual evidence. He also said that arguments leveled against it could apply to all antivirus software:
"DHS also cites technical arguments that apply to antivirus solutions generally, including broad levels of access and privileges to the systems on which the solutions operate, the use of cloud-based technologies to process malware samples and deploy detection signatures, and data collection and processing practices. These capabilities are not unique to Kaspersky Lab’s products, and if they are of concern, DHS could have taken action to address these issues holistically across the IT security industry instead of unfairly targeting a single company without any evidence of wrongdoing."
The order by Trump and the subsequent appeal are just the latest salvo in the war between DHS and Kaspersky. In July, the government removed Kaspersky as an approved vendor for IT services within U.S. agencies around the same time that the company offered to open its source code up for Congress to show it posed no threat. In August, the FBI accused the company of being filled with Russian spies and advised other companies to drop the software. Then in October, Israeli hackers accessed Kaspersky's network and reportedly found that Russian hackers were using the software as a "Google for sensitive information," such as information at the NSA. Kaspersky Lab again tried to offer transparency with a move to open its software up for independent review.
Despite the ban, Kaspersky said it will continue to do its job of tracking down malware. "Kaspersky Lab remains committed to continuing its mission and business of protecting customers in the United States and around the world from cyber threats by providing market leading anti-virus software, threat intelligence and analytics."
The next step now lies with the courts, but as always, use any software, even antivirus protection, at your own risk.