FBI questions US employees of Russian cyber firm Kaspersky Lab

A mirror reflects a computer screen displaying binary code.
A mirror reflects a computer screen displaying binary code.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The FBI interviewed several US employees of Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab this week as part of an ongoing agency probe of the company’s operations, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents visited the homes of Kaspersky employees late on Tuesday in multiple US cities, though no search warrants were served, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the FBI probe.

The news followed the disclosure by senior US intelligence officials last month, in testimony before the US Senate Intelligence Committee, that they were reviewing government use of software from Kaspersky Lab, as lawmakers raised concerns that Moscow might use the firm’s products to attack American computer networks.

In response, Eugene Kaspersky, the company’s founder and chief executive, had said during a question-and-answer session on Reddit that he would be willing to appear before the Senate to dispel any concerns about his company’s products.

Kaspersky Lab confirmed in an email statement on Wednesday that FBI agents have had “brief interactions” with some of its US employees, discussions that the company described as “due diligence” chats.

The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment. NBC News, which first reported news of the interviews on Wednesday, said at least a dozen employees on both the east and west coasts of the United States were paid visits.

It was not clear if the probe of Kaspersky Lab was related to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference and potential collusion during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which is being led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Kaspersky’s anti-virus software is popular in the United States and around the world, though US officials have long been suspicious that the company may have ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

Kaspersky has said repeatedly it has no ties to any government and that allegations about its products being used to support Russian espionage are unfounded.

Still, concern about Kaspersky has grown as Moscow has been accused of deploying increasingly aggressive cyber attacks to achieve its geopolitical goals. Russia has repeated denied it engages in state-sponsored hacking of other countries.