The FBI interviewed several U.S. employees of Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab this week as part of an investigation into the company's operations, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents visited the homes of Kaspersky employees late on Tuesday in multiple U.S. cities, although no search warrants were served, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discus the FBI probe.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents visited the homes of Kaspersky employees late on Tuesday in multiple U.S. cities, although no search warrants were served, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the FBI probe.
Last month, senior U.S. intelligence officials said in testimony before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that they were reviewing government use of software from Kaspersky Lab.
Lawmakers raised concerns that Moscow might use the firm's products to attack American computer networks, a particularly sensitive issue given allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia hacked and leaked emails of Democratic Party political groups to interfere in the 2016 presidential election campaign. Russia denies the allegations.
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It was unclear whether the probe into Kaspersky Lab was related to an investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with associates of then-Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.
Kaspersky Lab confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that FBI agents have had "brief interactions" with some of its U.S. employees, discussions that the company described as "due diligence" chats.
The FBI declined to comment.
NBC News, which on Wednesday first reported the interviews, said at least a dozen U.S.-based employees were paid visits, citing anonymous sources.
In response to U.S. lawmakers' concerns, Kaspersky founder and chief executive Eugene Kaspersky had said during a question-and-answer session on Reddit that he would be willing to appear before the Senate to dispel any concerns about his company's products.
Kaspersky's anti-virus software is popular in the United States and around the world, though U.S. officials have long been suspicious that the company may have ties to Russian intelligence agencies.
Kaspersky has said repeatedly it has no ties to any government and that allegations about its products being used to support Russian espionage are unfounded.
The company said in a separate statement on Wednesday that "Kaspersky Lab believes it is completely unacceptable that the company is being unjustly accused without any hard evidence to back up these false allegations." In its 20-year history, the company has abided by "the highest ethical business practices," it said.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe that the company and its president have had close ties to Russian political and intelligence officials since at least 2012, when a major shakeup of the firm’s executive ranks brought in new members with ties to Russia's three main intelligence agencies, said one U.S. official familiar with the investigation.