US lists Russia’s Kaspersky and Chinese telecom firms as security threats

28 Mar 2022

Image: © Ralf/Stock.adobe.com

The FCC will now prevent US businesses from using federal subsidies to purchase products or services from these companies.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has designated Russian cybersecurity provider Kaspersky Lab as a national security threat.

On Friday (25 March), the FCC also added China Telecom (Americas) Corp and China Mobile International USA to its list of providers deemed threats to US national security.

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FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said the decision is part of “ongoing efforts” to strengthen US communication networks against national security threats. She added that the commission has been “working closely with our national security partners” to keep the security threat list updated.

This is the first time a Russian company has been added to the list, which already includes other Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE.

In November 2019, the FCC voted unanimously to bar companies it deemed threatening from receiving money from the Universal Service Fund, which provides subsidies aimed at expanding internet access to underserved areas in the US.

This means the FCC now prevents US businesses from using federal funding to purchase products or services from those featured on its list of entities.

“I am pleased that our national security agencies agreed with my assessment that China Mobile and China Telecom appeared to meet the threshold necessary to add these entities to our list,” FCC commissioner Brendan Carr said.

“Their addition, as well as Kaspersky Labs, will help secure our networks from threats posed by Chinese and Russian state-backed entities seeking to engage in espionage and otherwise harm America’s interests,” Carr added.

Kaspersky said it is “disappointed” with the FCC’s decision to prohibit certain telecommunications-related federal subsidies from being used on Kaspersky services and products.

“This decision is not based on any technical assessment of Kaspersky products – that the company continuously advocates for – but instead is being made on political grounds,” the company said in a statement.

The FCC did not reference Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or US president Joe Biden’s recent warnings of the threat of Russian cyberattacks as reasons for its decision.

In September 2017, US federal agencies and branches were issued a directive by the country’s Homeland Security to stop using any Kaspersky Lab products within 90 days. This was due to concerns that the Kremlin was using the firm’s products to gain entry into US networks, a claim which Kaspersky denied.

“Kaspersky maintains that the US government’s 2017 prohibitions on federal entities and federal contractors from using Kaspersky products and services were unconstitutional, based on unsubstantiated allegations, and lacked any public evidence of wrongdoing by the company,” Kaspersky said in its statement on Friday.

“Kaspersky believes today’s expansion of such prohibition on entities that receive FCC telecommunication-related subsidies is similarly unsubstantiated and is a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com