US sanctions 12 Kaspersky leaders following product ban

Patrick van Katwijk/Getty Images For Kaspersky

The sanctions notably do not target company CEO Eugene Kaspersky.

The Treasury Department sanctioned a dozen top leaders and executives of Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky a day after the U.S. imposed a sweeping ban on new sales of its products to American customers.

The sanctions, carried out by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, slap Kaspersky’s top board members, chief operating officer, head of corporate communications and others with U.S. financial restrictions, but they notably do not target the firm’s eponymously named founder Eugene Kaspersky.

As part of the sanctions, all U.S. assets owned by the affected company heads are frozen and must be reported to Treasury. Other U.S. persons also cannot do business transactions with their assets or the targeted individuals owning those assets, including giving or receiving money, goods or services from them.

“Today’s action against the leadership of Kaspersky Lab underscores our commitment to ensure the integrity of our cyber domain and to protect our citizens against malicious cyber threats,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a written statement.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The sale ban announced Thursday was fueled by national security concerns over Kaspersky's ties to the Kremlin, a relationship the company has vehemently denied. Russia’s state-centered economy allows Moscow to swiftly steamroll contracts for military and intelligence operations, though U.S. officials haven’t provided recent unclassified evidence of Kaspersky colluding directly with Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

“We generally know that the Russian government uses whatever resources available to perpetrate various malicious cyber activities,” a senior Commerce Department official said Thursday when previewing the announcement of the sale ban. “We do not name any particular actions in this final determination, but we certainly believe that it’s more than just a theoretical threat that we described.”

Kaspersky came under scrutiny from national security officials shortly after the war in Ukraine began two years ago, amid concerns that Moscow could influence its software designs for spying purposes.

“Kaspersky believes that the Department of Commerce made its decision based on the present geopolitical climate and theoretical concerns, rather than on a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services,” the company said in a statement reacting to Thursday's news.

Kaspersky products, including its flagship antivirus suite, were already banned from U.S. government systems. That restriction was enacted in 2017 after officials said its software was used to steal classified NSA employee data via backdoor intercepts controlled by the Kremlin.