Kaspersky is at the centre of new claims today after reports suggested that it was hacked by Israeli intelligence two years ago, who claim to have found US National Security Agency (NSA) hacking tools on their network - and promptly informed US intelligence of its findings.
The claims are the latest in a string of stories leaked to US press, this time to the New York Times.
It claims that "Israeli intelligence officers looked in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs".
It adds that the tool that it used to conduct that search was the company's own anti-virus software. It suggests that that finding was behind the US government decision to remove Kaspersky's anti-virus security software from government systems.
It follows on from reports in the Wall Street Journal last week claiming that Kaspersky anti-virus software had been used to exfiltrate classified documents from the PC of an NSA employee who had taken the documents home.
Modern antivirus is essentially a modern panopticon. It has to be due to the truly incredible venues and methods threats can leverage.— SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) October 11, 2017
Kaspersky was one of the pioneers of ‘heuristic detection' almost 20 years ago, and the pervasive connection of PCs to fast internet connections means that, these days, all anti-virus software packages automatically send files that look suspicious back to base for analysis - making evaluating the latest claims challenging.
Kaspersky, of course, categorically rejected the claims.
"We absolutely and aggressively detect and clean malware infections no matter the source, and have been proudly doing so for 20 years," wrote co-founder Eugene Kaspersky last week in a blog post in response to earlier allegations aired in the US press. "We make no apologies for being aggressive in the battle against malware and cybercriminals - you shouldn't accept any less.
"While protecting our customers, we do - as any other cybersecurity vendors - check the health of a computer. It works like an X-ray: the security solution can see almost everything in order to identify problems, but it cannot attribute what it sees to a particular user."
The company also re-asserted its claim that it "does not have inappropriate ties with any government, including Russia", and that "the only conclusion seems to be that Kaspersky Lab is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight". The company added that it "does not possess any knowledge" of the Israeli hack, but that it would investigate.
However, in the US, many security firms also have close ties to US intelligence; likewise in the UK with GCHQ. The CIA also has its own venture capital firm with a brief to invest in companies developing technologies that might be of interest to US intelligence agencies.
Its portfolio today leans towards big data investments, including NoSQL database pioneer MongoDB, machine learning company Brainspace, and mobile security company MobileIron.
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