Week ahead: Lawmakers zero in on Kaspersky
All eyes will be on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee as it holds its first hearing on Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, a month after the Trump administration barred federal agencies from using the private firm’s cybersecurity software over national security concerns.
The company, which has headquarters in Moscow but operations around the world serving 400 million customers, has stirred alarm among lawmakers in Washington in the wake of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Kaspersky calls the concerns unfounded.
The committee will meet Wednesday morning to hear testimony from representatives of the General Services Administration (GSA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as cybersecurity experts, on the risks posed by Kaspersky Lab products to federal government IT systems.
GSA removed Kaspersky products from a government-approved procurement list back in July, months before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a public binding directive telling agencies to come up with plans to remove Kaspersky products from their systems within 90 days.
The panel had originally scheduled the hearing for late September and had invited Eugene Kaspersky, the company’s CEO, to testify, but that hearing was postponed last month over scheduling conflicts.
“The committee’s future hearings will determine what led the previous administration to include Kaspersky products on the government-approved purchasing schedule, how much risk Kaspersky’s compromised products exposed the federal government to, and how the cybersecurity framework should be adjusted to prevent future intrusions,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman, told The Hill recently.
Kaspersky has long fought allegations in the media that it has ties to Russian intelligence. To date, U.S. officials have produced no public evidence showing that the company has been compromised by the Kremlin.
While this is the first hearing specifically convened to focus on Kaspersky, the issue has come up often on Capitol Hill in recent weeks.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) suggested Homeland Security should have more quickly told agencies to rid their systems of Kaspersky products, rather than dragging the process out over three months.
“Do you think, if this happened in Russia — if they found a system of ours that was looking at all of their stuff — do you think it would take — do you think they’d tell their agencies of government, ‘You have 90 days to remove it’? Seriously?” McCaskill said when questioning Christopher Krebs, a top DHS official.
Next week could also bring movement in the Senate on President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, met with Nielsen on Tuesday and the two discussed “the challenges facing the department and her plans to address cybersecurity, the federal response to the recent hurricanes, border security, and counterterrorism efforts,” according to a release from the committee’s Republicans.
The committee has not yet scheduled Nielsen’s confirmation hearing, though Johnson has indicated that he would like to expedite the process.
Cybersecurity will take center stage at a number of hearings in the House and Senate in the coming week.
The House Oversight IT subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on federal political advertisement laws and regulations for Tuesday, as Facebook continues to face scrutiny after disclosing that it sold political ads on its platform to Russian groups ahead of the 2016 vote.
Two House committees are also exploring public-private solutions for bolstering the cybersecurity workforce during a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is planning to examine technologies that could be used to guard electric grids and other energy infrastructure from cyberattacks at a hearing Thursday morning.
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