Earlier this year, Joe Biden’s administration ramped up a national security probe into Russia’s AO Kaspersky Lab antivirus software amid heightened fears of Russian cyberattacks following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, reported to the Reuters three people, familiar with this issue.
Last year, the US Department of Justice referred the case to the Department of Commerce, but it was unsuccessful in its investigation until the White House and other administration officials urged it to move faster in March.
There is a risk that the Kremlin may use Kaspersky anti-virus software, which has privileged access to computer systems, to steal confidential information from American computers. Access to the networks of federal contractors and operators of critical U.S. infrastructure, such as power grids, is seen as a particular concern, said three people familiar with the investigation.
U.S. regulators have already banned the federal government from using Kaspersky software, and may eventually force the company to take steps to reduce the risks associated with its products, or ban Americans from using them altogether.
However, regulatory powers do not allow the US government to block the private sector’s use of software produced by a Moscow-based company that has long been seen by US officials as a serious threat to national security.
The expanded investigation is using new broad powers created by the Trump administration that allow the Department of Commerce to ban or restrict transactions between US firms and Internet, telecommunications and technology companies of “foreign adversaries,” including Russia and China.
Therefore, in the case of Kaspersky, the US Department of Commerce may try to use its power to prohibit the use, purchase of antivirus by US citizens or download its updates via a regulation in the Federal Register.
However, these tools are largely untested. Former President Donald Trump used them to try to ban Americans from using China’s social networking platforms TikTok and WeChat, but federal courts have stopped the move.