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On Friday April 20, Twitter banned ads from Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs citing conflicts with advertising rules but also citing U.S. government claims that Kaspersky has ties to Russian intelligence agencies.
There have been rumblings for years in security circles that Kaspersky has been tied to Russian intelligence so this announcement actually didn’t surprise many people. There has never been any direct proof of cooperation been the company and the Russian government but the potential for backdoor entry points onto sensitive computers using one of the most popular anti-virus products on the market has raised security concerns around the world.
It must be pointed out that Kaspersky is a Russia-based company and their anti-malware software has been frequently rated highly by industry ratings services. The reported Russian hacking and disinformation activities during the last election has raised the public sensitivity to state-sponsored hacking.
Earlier in the year Washington charged that Kaspersky Lab has close ties to intelligence agencies in Moscow and its software could be used to enable Russian spying, which prompted the Trump administration to ban its products from U.S. government networks. Kaspersky has repeatedly denied those allegations and it has asked a U.S. federal court to overturn the American ban.
Department of Homeland Security cyber-security official Jeanette Manfra said her agency has not instructed U.S. companies to punish Kaspersky. “We laid out a very transparent process and how we came to our decision,” to ban Kaspersky products from government networks, she said at a panel at the RSA security conference in San Francisco. “I would defer to the companies for how they made their decisions.”
Kaspersky said that only Twitter has banned their advertising but other social media companies have taken action regarding Kaspersky Lab earlier. Facebook said it had removed Kaspersky Lab from a list of anti-virus offerings to users in January. Twitter also said it was responding to a Department of Homeland Security warning of a threat to national security posed by Russian government access to Kaspersky products.