Israeli intelligence officials spying on hackers linked to the Russian government found that one of their target’s favorite tools was Kaspersky Lab’s antivirus software, which is used by 400 million people around the world, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Israeli officials, who had detected the hacking two years ago, alerted the US that Russian hackers were using the software as a sort of Google search engine for sensitive information, the Times reported, leading the Trump administration to order federal agencies to remove the Moscow-based cybersecurity software company’s products from their networks.
The Israeli spies also found hacking tools in Kaspersky networks that could have only come from the National Security Agency, according to a separate report Tuesday by the Washington Post. Israel notified the NSA, which after an investigation, determined the tools were in the possession of the Russian government, the Post reported.
The report comes after the Wall Street Journal reported last week that hackers backed by the Russian government stole highly classified cyber secrets in 2015 after an NSA contractor placed the information on his home computer. The hackers were able to access the data because the contractor was running antivirus software from Kaspersky Lab, the newspaper reported.
The US National Intelligence Council report completed late last month concluded Russia’s FSB (Federal Security Service) intelligence service had “probable access” to Kaspersky customer databases and source code, the Post reported. That access, it concluded, could help enable cyberattacks against US government, commercial and industrial control networks, the Post reported.
The revelations come amid heightened concerns in Washington that hackers working for the Russian government penetrated US computer networks and tapped social media platforms to meddle with the US 2016 election. Government investigators are examining whether the Russian government may have attempted to influence the electorate, and whether President Donald Trump or anyone working for him was knowingly involved. Trump has repeatedly denied involvement.
Kaspersky didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports but has repeatedly denied any connection to the Russian government.
“Kaspersky Lab does not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia, and it is unfortunate that news coverage continues to report anonymously-sourced claims, despite these sources not presenting the journalists any evidence to back up their accusations,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.
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