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‘UK govt. bans agencies from using Russian Kaspersky software’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A picture taken on October 17, 2016 shows an employee walking behind a glass wall with machine coding symbols at the headquarters of Internet security giant Kaspersky in Moscow. (Photo by AFP)

The British government has forbidden its agencies responsible for national security from using Russian anti-virus software Kaspersky, according to the Financial Times.

This comes after the director of the UK National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), Ciaran Martin, warned the government departments not to use any software made by Russia's Kaspersky Labs.

“Where it is assessed that access to the information by the Russian state would be a risk to national security, a Russia-based AV [antivirus] company should not be chosen,” said Martin in a letter Friday signed off by chiefs at MI5.

Departments which are specifically responsible for “foreign policy, international negotiations, defense and other sensitive information” were highlighted in his letter.

This comes despite the fact that the NCSC itself said, after a six-month review, it had not found any evidence proving the software was being used to gather intelligence on behalf of the Russian intelligence services.

However, Martin said that Russia was a “highly capable cyber threat actor which uses cyber as a tool of statecraft.”

He also said that his agency is in discussions with the company “about whether we can develop a framework that we and others can independently verify."

In September, the US Department of Homeland Security banned the federal agencies from using the software too.

Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke gave federal agencies three months to begin the process of removing the software from their networks, citing an effort to maintain “national security.”

Washington had previously voiced concerns that the software would give the Kremlin backdoor access to the US systems.

Kaspersky has denied the allegations, saying it did not have “inappropriate ties with any government.”

“Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts, and it’s disconcerting that a private company can be considered guilty until proven innocent, due to geopolitical issues,” Kaspersky said in response to Washington’s claims.

Meanwhile, the US Justice Department said Friday that a 10-year veteran of the National Security Agency's hacking team has been charged with illegally removing top secret materials.

Nghia Hoang Pho of the NSA's Tailored Access Operations unit had taken printed and digital copies of documents and writings labeled "secret," and containing sensitive "national defense information."

According to The New York Times, Vietnam-born Pho kept the material at his Ellicott City, Maryland home from 2010 until he was arrested in 2015.

The report claimed that he used Kaspersky software, thus enabling Russian hackers to steal files and programs the NSA developed for its own hacking operations.

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