Head of Russian cybersecurity firm defends company amid US scrutiny

Head of Russian cybersecurity firm defends company amid US scrutiny

The CEO of Russia-based global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab defended his company Thursday as the heads of six U.S. intelligence agencies testified on Capitol Hill that they have treated the company as a threat.

Eugene Kaspersky answered questions on the internet forum Reddit about alleged ties between his company and the Russian government.

"Does Russian government have any influence on your company?" one user questioned on the Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread.

"Hi. No, it doesn’t and any speculation about it are false, they are [sic] unfounded conspiracy theories," Kaspersky replied.

The pushback came as the heads of the CIA, National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency, Director of National Intelligence and acting head of the FBI addressed the company on Capitol Hill.

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Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump administration eyes new strategy on COVID-19 tests ACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names MORE (R-Fla.) questioned whether the security officials testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee would use Kaspersky software on their home computers, to which each member of the panel responded no.

Kaspersky Lab was the subject of BuzzFeed and ABC News stories earlier this week that detailed skepticism within the U.S. intelligence community about the company, including a secret February warning sent out by the Department of Homeland Security.

Kaspersky Lab, which was founded in 1997, has for years fended off rumors that it was compromised by its founder's friendships with the Russian government. According to a Bloomberg story in 2015, Kaspersky meets friends — including intelligence agents — in Russian saunas known as banyas. Kaspersky was educated at a KGB-run university and served in military intelligence and the Ministry of Defense. 

At the same time, Kaspersky Lab has uncovered Russian intelligence operations in the past, like one nicknamed Turla, which are still active today. The company has internationally known researchers working in research facilities around the world, including the U.S. Its antivirus software, the product it is best known for, tests very well against its competitors.

No one has publicly tied Kaspersky to Russian intelligence in any way other than selling it software and paying taxes.

On the Reddit AMA, another user asked: "Would you say you are more of a fancy bear or a cozy bear?"

Kaspersky answered, "I’m a Kamchatka bear-hunter."

Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear are nicknames for the Russian intelligence operations believed to have attacked the Democratic National Committee. Kamchatka bears are an bear indigenous to Russia.