National Security Agency headquarters at Ft. Meade, Maryland. (Image: file photo)
In 2014, Israeli intelligence officers hacked the Kaspersky network and discovered Russian government hackers exploiting Kaspersky antivirus software to search computers around the globe for US intelligence programs, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Israeli government notified the US of this Russian intrusion, prompting months of discussion and a review of Kaspersky software, the Times reports. Ultimately, the Israeli information led the US last month to ban all federal executive branch agencies from using Kaspersky software. The US has largely kept silent about what led to the ban.
The Russian-based company, according to the Times, denies any knowledge of or involvement with the Russian hacking. “Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts,” the company said in a statement to the Times The company also said it “respectfully requests any relevant, verifiable information that would enable the company to begin an investigation at the earliest opportunity.”
Russia’s use of Kaspersky antivirus software was vast — the Times characterizes it as “turning the Kaspersky software into a sort of Google search for sensitive information.” And it includes an incident first reported by the Wall Street Journal last week in which Russian hackers stole sensitive National Security Agency (NSA) data from a contractor who put the data on his home computer.
While the Times’ reporting sheds more light on exactly how Kaspersky antivirus software was used to steal sensitive US information, though it’s still unclear whether the company was complicit in the hacking.Related coverage: Beyond Kaspersky: How a digital Cold War with Russia threatens the IT industry What is Kaspersky’s role in NSA data theft? Here are three likely outcomes