Cybersecurity

Kaspersky challenges DHS software ban in court

Kaspersky's Moscow hq Image ID: 666469297 Editorial credit: StockphotoVideo / Shutterstock.com 

Kaspersky's Moscow headquarters. (Image credit: StockphotoVideo/Shutterstock.com)

Kaspersky Lab announced Dec. 18 that it will challenge a September 2017 directive by the Department of Homeland Security banning the use of their software in the federal government.

In a release announcing the move, the company said that DHS has failed to provide them with adequate due process and relied on "subjective, non-technical public sources" like anonymously-sourced media reports to justify their ban.

"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 confirmed to FCW in an email that is has filed the appeal in the U.S. District of Columbia and that DHS will have 60 days to respond. Kaspersky is being represented by Baker and McKenzie, LLP.

The federal government has been openly calling Kaspersky Lab an information security risk for most of the past year, but hasn't publicly disclosed its evidence. In October 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2015 Russian hackers used access to Kaspersky's antivirus software to lift classified tools and files from the home computer of an NSA intelligence officer.

On Dec. 1, Nghia Hoang Pho pled guilty in federal court to illegally taking home classified material to his home. The charges do not reference Kaspersky Lab, but anonymous U.S. intelligence sources told Reuters that Pho was the employee referenced in the Wall Street Journal report. Kaspersky has denied the charges and claimed that Pho turned off his antivirus program to download a pirated version of Microsoft Word that was infected with a Trojan virus.

There are indications that DHS was expecting this move. In a November 2017 hearing in the House of Representatives, Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications at DHS said there was a chance Kaspersky Lab was considering legal action. The process surrounding their binding operational directive was developed with that possibility in mind, she explained.

"Because we need to provide the company with a meaningful opportunity to be heard, and there may be federal court review of our actions and decisions, there may be certain issues that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on until the conclusion of this process," said Manfra.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.

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