U.S. government orders removal of Russian firm's software

Kaspersky headquarters Moscow
An employee walks behind a glass wall at the headquarters of Kaspersky Lab in Moscow.

The U.S. federal government is cutting ties with a top Russian cybersecurity firm.

The Department of Homeland Security has ordered government agencies to remove any products from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab because of security concerns.

Kaspersky's anti-virus software is commonly used in equipment bought by U.S. government agencies and has also become popular among American consumers. But the company has been battling allegations that it has links to Russian spy agencies.

Homeland Security said in a statement Wednesday that it's "concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies."

It also cited "requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks."

Related: Russian spy purge after suspected leaks to U.S. intelligence

Kaspersky quickly fired back, calling the allegations completely unfounded.

It said it doesn't have "unethical ties or affiliations with any government, including Russia" and "has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts."

The company said the Russian law the U.S. government refers to applies to telecom companies and internet service providers, not firms like Kaspersky.

U.S. government agencies have 90 days to prepare to start removing Kaspersky software from their systems, according to the Homeland Security directive.

The department said Kaspersky products "provide broad access to files and elevated privileges on the computers on which the software is installed, which can be exploited by malicious cyber actors to compromise those information systems."

Kaspersky suggested the decision had more to do with tensions between Washington and Moscow than its business, which sells products to governments around the world.

"It's disconcerting that a private company can be considered guilty until proven innocent, due to geopolitical issues," it said.

Related: CNN's latest reporting on the Russia investigation

At a Senate hearing in May on national security threats, intelligence officials expressed concerns about ongoing Russian efforts to infiltrate U.S. infrastructure, saying Kaspersky software could be used as a tool to accomplish that goal.

The heads of six major U.S. intelligence agencies all testified that they would not be comfortable using Kaspersky software on their computers.

The Homeland Security announcement Wednesday is the latest blow for the Russian firm in the U.S.

In July, the General Services Administration, a federal agency that buys and manages goods and services for the government, removed Kaspersky from a list of approved vendors.

And last week, electronics retailer Best Buy (BBY) pulled Kaspersky products from its shelves and website. It hasn't publicly stated the reasons behind the decision.

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