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Russian Cybersecurity CEO Offers Source Code for U.S. Inspection

July 2, 2017, 7:32 PM UTC

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, has said he would allow the U.S. government to inspect his company’s source code to allay distrust of its antivirus and cybersecurity products.

Kaspersky’s invitation, made in an interview with the Associated Press, comes amidst mounting U.S.-Russian tensions over alleged election hacking. It also follows years of suspicion that Kaspersky, who attended a KGB-sponsored school and once worked for Russia’s Ministry of Defense, retains personal ties to Russian intelligence.

Suspicions came to a head this week when the Senate floated a proposal that would bar the use of Kaspersky Lab products by the U.S. military. Senator Jeanne Shaneen said there was “a consensus in Congress and among administration officials that Kaspersky Lab cannot be trusted to protect critical infrastructure.”

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In the AP interview, Kaspersky acknowledged employing ex-Russian intelligence workers, primarily as sales staff in government liaison roles. But he denies any form of collusion with the Russian government, and insists his company only engages in defensive security work.

Kaspersky is, however, juggling two conflicting public relations priorities. While U.S. officials are casting aspersions on his company’s products, privacy advocates see a threat in increasing government pressure for tech companies to provide security backdoors. Government weaponizing of security flaws has also led to serious hacks like WannaCry.

Further, as Gizmodo points out, these things can cut both ways. The Russian government has been asking for similar code access from American technology firms, and many – including IBM, Cisco, and SAP – have acquiesced.