FCC Declares Kaspersky “threat to U.S. national security”

Remember when Kaspersky in 2018 lost an obviously stupid lawsuit that claimed the U.S. government shouldn’t be able to prohibit products harmful to society?

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her May 30 opinion that U.S. networks and computer systems are “extremely important strategic national assets” whose security depends on the government’s ability to act swiftly against potential threats, even if such actions cause adverse affects for third-party providers like Kaspersky Labs. “These defensive actions may very well have adverse consequences for some third-parties. But that does not make them unconstitutional,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

On a related note, Americans I know personally who foolishly agreed to attend Kaspersky CEO’s invite-only security “bash” on a tropical island… ended up with food poisoning and severe illness. Projectile vomit.

True story.

Well, the big news today is that under a 2019 law the FCC has just formally added AO Kaspersky Lab along with China Telecom and China Mobile to a national security threat list.

Kaspersky earlier this year was also in the news when the German government issued a warning, and again when their CEO gave a rather tone-deaf message about Russia invading Ukraine.

“Better to have stayed silent than to have called an invasion a ‘situation’ that requires a ‘compromise’,” Rik Ferguson, of rival cyber-security company TrendMicro, tweeted.

That makes me like TrendMicro.

Think of Kaspersky in terms of a security software vendor telling customers that a serious breach is a situation needing compromise when attackers are Russian. Who would really want to use that vendor versus one that actually defended against being breached?

Some also may remember Kaspersky’s handling of the infamously traitorous General Michael Flynn by giving him large cash payments.

Flynn also received $US11,250 ($14,667) from Kaspersky Government Security Solutions, Inc., described as the US subsidiary of Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, according to the documents.

Yes, he was traitorous. Any U.S. General full well knows how businesses and criminal enterprises in Russia are direct extensions of Russian intelligence whenever the Kremin chooses. It’s really no understatement to call Flynn a traitor.

As I told journalists in 2017 (clumsily, I admit): while Mandiant is close to NSA, Crowdstrike is close to FBI, we can’t compare the collaborations with Russia because Putin’s dictatorial control model is completely different from congressional contracts and hand-outs.

Israeli intelligence had since 2014 sounded the alarm to anyone in the U.S. willing to listen to intelligence.

Source: “How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets”, New York Times

Perhaps also worth mentioning here, since we’re talking about remembering things, Facebook around 2014 started to carefully audit anyone who came to their site… and then actively pushed Kaspersky code as “free” help.

The problem with Facebook is thousands of active phishing scams but the social media giant has partnered with popular security software developer firm Kaspersky so that users could identify and remove malware from their computers.

Popular security software developer firm Kaspersky? According to what population?

Let’s be honest here.

The real question is whether users could identify and remove the threat from the relatively unheard of Kaspersky software being pushed upon them by Facebook’s security team? I guarantee the vast majority of users had never heard that name before Facebook made it a required “checkpoint” to login.

Moreover, does having a problem with phishing on Facebook sound anything close to being a relevant reason to push an unfamiliar Russian content scanning tool onto people?

No. No, it does not. Now read this:

In a Facebook post, Facebook’s Software Engineer Threat Infrastructure Team head Trevor Pottinger explained: “To make this programme even more effective, Kaspersky Lab is bringing their expertise… we will offer Kaspersky Malware Scan for Facebook… in the past three months, we have helped [run Kaspersky code on] more than 2 million people’s computers.”

Facebook safety “checkpoint” hit millions of users. Was it Russian surveillance or just Russian code meant “to help”?

Facebook knew exactly who had run the Kaspersky code. They boasted about knowing how many people ran it.

You’ll never guess what happened next.

When called to account for their very precise user tracking and audit practices, Facebook tried to plead total ignorance as if there had been no factual basis to loudly boast “more than 2 million” users had Kaspersky pushed onto them.

Source: CNN

The dubious and forked-tongue of Facebook “help” came not long after they hired an unqualified CSO, and Moscow Times in 2015 ran the headline “Kaspersky Plans Push for Sales to U.S. Government” (link now unreachable)… which was countered by the even more salacious headline “Russian antivirus firm faked malware to harm rivals – Ex-employees“.

Faked malware to harm its own employees and rival companies while pushing into U.S. Government sales. No wonder that now-disgraced Facebook CSO, known for failing to disclose the largest breaches in history, was so welcoming.

For context on why this all might sound so evil the two founders of Kaspersky served as Russian intelligence (KGB). Twice there have been major disagreements at the executive level and its CEO has had major exodus of talent as he consolidated control and refused to be transparent, allow other views, or resolve disputes.

So while it’s really good to see Kaspersky finally being handed the kind of label it has always deserved, I’m disappointed that a heavily Russian-backed Russian-asset like Facebook wasn’t included (as I’ve warned about publicly since at least February 2011 and why I deleted my Facebook account in 2009).

After this FCC explicit ban on Kaspersky should we get to call it the most anti-democratic software ever? Or does that crown remain on Facebook (not least of all for peddling Kaspersky)?

Also, US sales of Kaspersky (under $50m) is tiny compared to the UK (over $500m), so maybe the real question is how much exposure does American national security have to British system compromise.

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