Kaspersky Closes DC Office, Says It Is 'No Longer Viable' To Work With US Government

Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has had a rough season in the US amid claims the company's software scans for and steals documents of interest to the Kremlin. With the use of its products at US government agencies now banned, the company has elected to shut down its DC-area headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

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"We are closing our facility in Arlington as the opportunity for which the office was opened and staffed is no longer viable," a Kaspersky spokesperson told TechCrunch.

US authorities grew concerned about the use of Kaspersky products on sensitive government systems earlier this year as part of an overall security reassessment tied to accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. The Wall Street Journal reported one incident of particular interest in which its signature security suite allegedly identified files on a National Security Agency contractor's computer, allowing Russian operatives to target the device for an attack.

Though Kaspersky has chalked up the matter as one big misunderstanding and committed to third-party review of its code, a three-month deadline for federal agencies to delete its software imposed by the Department of Homeland Security in September recently expired.

"The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky 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," the DHS wrote in a statement.

"The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalise on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security."

Similar concerns prompted the UK to take similar but non-binding action earlier this month.

Per Bloomberg, the decision to shut down the DC-area office is not an indication Kaspersky has lost interest in the North American market. It still plans to open three offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto, though it will be focusing on sales to private companies and individuals. Company vice president Anton Shingarev told Bloomberg he hoped the US does not take further action against it, and similarly opposed the Russians taking any retaliatory measures.

"I am against any bans," Shingarev said. "Any protective measures could be very dangerous long-term. We have great expertise in protecting banks against Russian hackers and if US were to ban us from their banks it would be shooting itself in a foot."

[TechCrunch]