Kaspersky: Stop Russian to Judgment on Our Products

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Congress seems to approve of a proposed federal pay raise, loosening retirement fund rules and wants to get rid of agency that focuses on elections.

The Russian anti-virus magnate Eugene Kaspersky shot back Friday after a Senate committee urged banning his company’s products from U.S. Defense Department servers because of alleged ties to the Russian government.

The move, Kaspersky charged, amounted to “allegations, ungrounded speculation and all sorts of other made-up things” driven by broader geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and Russia, rather than any proven compromise of Kaspersky products.

“Basically, it seems that because I’m a self-made entrepreneur who, due to my age and nationality, inevitably was educated during the Soviet era in Russia, they mistakenly conclude my company and I must be bosom buddies with the Russian intelligence agencies,” Kaspersky wrote.

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Outside researchers regularly scour Kaspersky’s products for vulnerabilities, the founder noted, and the company incentivizes such vetting with a bug bounty program. Kaspersky has also offered to speak with anyone from the U.S. government to allay concerns and to open up the company’s source code to U.S. investigators, he wrote.

“If banning technologies from companies from other regions is the path we’re on now, imagine just how easy it would be for any other country to exclude U.S. companies from governmental contacts using the same unjust, invalid arguments we heard about my company, such as: ‘They’re a potential threat…; we’re very concerned about them [foreign software developers] and the security of our country!’ Kaspersky wrote.

Lawmakers Want NIST to Tackle Cyber Hygiene

The government’s cyber standards agency would be tasked with establishing baseline standards for good cyber hygiene and promoting those standards to government and industry under the Promoting Good Cyber Hygiene Act, introduced by a bipartisan and bicameral quartet Thursday.

The Federal Trade Commission and Homeland Security Department should help develop the standards, according to the bill from Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Susan Brooks, R-Ind. The bill also mandates a report on cybersecurity threats posed by connected consumer products such as cameras and baby monitors.

Lieu Urges NSA Aid in NotPetya Fight

One of the House’s top cybersecurity mavens wants the National Security Agency to do anything it can to halt the NotPetya data destruction attack spreading across the U.S. and Europe—including pulling a kill switch if the spy agency has one.

NotPetya, like the earlier WannaCry ransomware campaign, uses an NSA exploit leaked by a hacking group known as Shadow Brokers.

NotPetya and WannaCry could be “the tip of the iceberg” of attacks based on leaked NSA tools, so the agency’s duty bound to help protect American citizens from them, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., wrote in a Wednesday letter to NSA Director Michael Rogers.

The Tapes But Not Just the Tapes

President Donald Trump’s June 22 tweet stating he didn’t record his meetings with former FBI Director James Comey, isn’t sufficient to comply with a House Intelligence Committee request for any “recordings, memoranda, or other documents” related to the meetings, committee leaders said Thursday.

Reps. Mike Conway, R-Texas, and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., want to know if there are any non-tape responsive documents and they’re willing to subpoena those documents if not produced, the pair wrote Thursday to the White House.

About Your Paycheck

The president’s proposed 1.9 percent civilian federal employee pay increase cleared a House appropriations subcommittee Thursday as part of Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act. Congress could still make changes through the yearend and some lawmakers previously suggested giving government civilians the same raise the president’s proposed for the military: 2.1 percent.  

Members of the House Governmental Reform and Oversight Committee also recently introduced the Thrift Savings Account Modernization Act to make it easier for federal employees to withdraw funds from their 401(k)-like retirement plan. Account holders could make multiple age-based withdrawals after leaving government positions and let them make changes to timing and amounts of payments. The Senate has been working on a version since April.

This Commission Will Self-Destruct in 60 Days

A House spending bill proposes eliminating the Election Assistance Commission, a small agency formed in 2000 with a budget of about $10 million and 30 or so employees. The agency provides election guidance, including testing and certifying voting machines. The bill, unveiled Thursday, would give the agency 60 days to terminate itself.

Joseph Marks and Heather Kuldell contributed to this report.