Claim: Russia was using antivirus software to act against the U.S.

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A new report says it was Israeli intelligence officials that alerted the United States to widespread computer intrusions, leading to the U.S. government’s decision to purge Kaspersky antivirus software last month.

According to a report in The New York Times, Israeli intelligence was surveilling their Russian counterparts, hacking into Kaspersky’s systems, and noted that Russian agents were acting against the U.S. in real time.

In September, a directive from the Department of Homeland Security put an end to Kaspersky software use on all government computers. Citing security concerns, the existing software was ordered removed, and the directive received bipartisan support in Congress.

“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 directive read.

Kaspersky denied any involvement with the Russian government, issuing a statement to the Times on Tuesday.

“Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts,” the company said. It added that it “respectfully requests any relevant, verifiable information that would enable the company to begin an investigation at the earliest opportunity.”

A National Security Agency contractor’s computer was hacked by Russian operatives who stole classified details, DML News reported last week. The details stolen included how the United States defends itself against cyber attacks and how it penetrates foreign computer networks.

The NSA contractor had transferred the highly-classified data to his home computer, which was using antivirus software made by Kaspersky Lab, and it is believed that the Russian hackers were able to access the computer through the software.

The theft is considered to be one of the most significant security breaches in recent history.

Kaspersky reportedly has more than 400 million users around the world, and received over half a billion dollars in revenue from sales in the Americas and Western Europe in 2016.

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