Kaspersky CEO accepts invite to testify before Congress

Kaspersky CEO accepts invite to testify before Congress
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A key congressional panel has asked the CEO of Kaspersky Lab to testify before lawmakers, one day after the U.S. government barred federal agencies from using software produced by the Russian-origin cyber firm over national security concerns. 

Republicans on the House Science Committee wrote to Eugene Kaspersky on Thursday asking him to testify at a subcommittee hearing on Sept. 27. 

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“The purpose of this hearing is to conduct oversight of the cybersecurity posture of the federal government, and examine the extent to which the federal government utilizes your company's products,” Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), chairman of the subcommittee on oversight, wrote in the letter to Kaspersky. 

A committee aide said the hearing will examine risks that Kaspersky Lab products pose to U.S. information systems.

Kaspersky said in a statement to The Hill that he appreciates and accepts the invitation, but needs an expedited visa in order to publicly address "the allegations about my company and its products."

Kaspersky Lab has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of ties between the company and Russian intelligence. 

On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directed federal agencies and departments to identify any Kaspersky Lab software on their information systems and come up with plans to discontinue the use of the software. 

“The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky [Lab] officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks,” DHS said.

“The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky [Lab] products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security,” the department said. 

Kaspersky Lab has long described the allegations of ties to the Kremlin as baseless, pointing to the lack of public evidence substantiating the claims. Kaspersky himself has offered to testify before Congress and provide source code in order to assuage any concerns. 

The company said Wednesday that it would work "to provide additional information to [Homeland Security] in order to confirm that these allegations are completely unfounded." DHS has offered Kaspersky the opportunity to submit a written response to mitigate concerns.

In addition to Kaspersky, the House Science Committee has also called Jeanette Manfra, a top cybersecurity official at Homeland Security, and Charles Romine, an IT official at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to testify. 

Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has previously scrutinized the federal government’s use of Kaspersky Lab antivirus software. In July, Smith requested documents on Kaspersky Lab from nearly two dozen government agencies, expressing concern that the firm’s products could be used in “nefarious activities against the United States.” 

In a statement Wednesday, Smith said he backed Homeland Security’s decision to terminate the use of Kaspersky Lab software on federal systems. 

“This type of software has nearly uninhibited access to the systems it purports to protect and has the potential to pose major cybersecurity risks to our federal systems,” Smith said.

“I support Acting DHS Secretary [Elaine] Duke’s directive, which takes a crucial step toward ensuring our federal systems are not susceptible to potential cyber espionage. I look forward to further discussing this critical issue at our September 27 Science Committee hearing.”