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Officials fear Russia could try to target US through popular software firm under FBI scrutiny

Russia’s growing aggression toward the United States has deepened concerns among U.S. officials that Russian spies might try to exploit one of the world’s most respected cybersecurity firms to snoop on Americans or sabotage key U.S. systems, according to an ABC News investigation. Products from the company, Kaspersky Lab, based in Moscow, are widely used in homes, businesses and government agencies throughout the United States, including the Bureau of Prisons. Kaspersky Lab’s products are stocked on the shelves of Target and Best Buy, which also sells laptops loaded by manufacturers with the firm’s anti-virus software. But in a secret memorandum sent last month to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate Intelligence Committee raised possible red flags about Kaspersky Lab and urged the intelligence community to address potential risks posed by the company’s powerful market position. “This [is an] important national security issue,” declared the bipartisan memorandum, described to ABC News by congressional sources. In February, the Department of Homeland Security issued a secret report on the matter to other government agencies. And the FBI is investigating the nature of Kaspersky Lab’s relationship to the Russian government, sources with knowledge of the probe told ABC News. The company has repeatedly insisted it poses no threat to U.S. customers and would never be used as a government tool. Current and former U.S. officials, however, point to company executives who previously worked for Russian intelligence and military agencies. They worry that Kaspersky Lab’s software could allow state-sponsored hackers to steal users’ files, read private emails or attack critical infrastructure in the United States. Kaspersky Lab’s possible relationship with Russian intelligence services “makes a lot of people in the national security community uncomfortable,” said Eric Rosenbach, a cybersecurity veteran who until January was the Defense Department’s chief of staff. In particular, current and former U.S. officials fear Kaspersky Lab products have the potential to facilitate Russian cyberattacks on power grids or other key utilities. “That is something I have followed for a long time and have significant concerns about,” former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Liz Sherwood-Randall said. There was “widespread knowledge that this poses a huge risk to the U.S. critical infrastructure,” according to Michael Carpenter, who until January served as the Defense Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Last year, FBI officials communicated potential concerns about Kaspersky Lab to a select group of private-sector leaders, including the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, an organization of electric company chiefs from across North America, sources said. The Senate Intelligence Committee also received several briefings on the matter.

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