DHS Secretary Promises Report on Russian Antivirus Use at Agency

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 25, 2017

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 25, 2017 Susan Walsh/AP

Lawmakers have grown increasingly concerned about alleged links between the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky and Russian intelligence.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., wants a report from the Homeland Security Department about all instances of Russian-founded Kaspersky Lab's antivirus software on computer systems used by DHS or its contractors, he told Secretary John Kelly on Thursday.

Kelly believes Kaspersky antivirus does run on some DHS systems, he said, but he’s not sure of its extent. He promised to provide Manchin with a report.

Manchin’s request, during a hearing of a Senate Appropriations Committee panel, follows a spike in concern about alleged ties between Kaspersky and the Russian government, spawned in part by a Buzzfeed article earlier this month that cited unnamed intelligence officials.

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

A few days after that report, intelligence leaders at the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency told lawmakers they were looking into the allegations.

“Kaspersky Lab has no ties to any government and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyber espionage efforts,” the company responded in a statement.

U.S. intelligence agencies have not reached out to Kaspersky about their concerns nor have members of Congress, the company told Nextgov.

Alleged links between Kaspersky and its CEO Eugene Kaspersky with Russian intelligence services have made headlines numerous times before, most recently in a 2015 expose in Bloomberg.

Concerns about the alleged links are heightened now, though, following the Russian government’s cyber influence operation during the 2016 presidential election, which included releasing hacked documents from Democratic political organizations and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Kelly also touted DHS efforts to prevent the WannaCry ransomware attack from spreading widely among U.S. companies, during Thursday’s hearing, but warned the department must “up our game” in cybersecurity.

“Since I’ve been in this administration, I have not heard more discussion on anything else than cyber,” he told lawmakers.