The US government began privately warning some American companies the day after Russia invaded Ukraine that Moscow could manipulate software designed by Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky to cause harm, according to a senior US official and two people familiar with the matter.
The classified briefings are part of Washington’s broader strategy to prepare providers of critical infrastructure such as water, telecoms and energy for potential Russian intrusions.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., said last week that sanctions imposed on Russia for its Feb. 24 attack on Ukraine could result in a backlash, including cyber disruptions, but the White House did not offer specifics.
“The risk calculation has changed with the Ukraine conflict,” said the senior US official about Kaspersky’s software. “It has increased.”
Kaspersky, one of the cybersecurity industry’s most popular antivirus software makers, is headquartered in Moscow and was founded by Eugene Kaspersky, who US officials describe as a former Russian intelligence officer.
A Kaspersky spokeswoman said in a statement that the briefings about purported risks of Kaspersky software would be “further damaging” to Kaspersky’s reputation “without giving the company the opportunity to respond directly to such concerns” and that it “is not appropriate or just.”
The senior US official said Kaspersky’s Russia-based staff could be coerced into providing or helping establish remote access into their customers’ computers by Russian law enforcement or intelligence agencies.
Eugene Kaspersky, according to his company website, graduated from the Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications and Computer Science, which the Soviet KGB previously administered. The company spokeswoman said that Kaspersky worked as a “software engineer” during military service.
The Russian cybersecurity firm, which has an office in the United States, lists partnerships with Microsoft, Intel, and IBM on its…
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