Israeli intelligence officers were behind a tip-off to US agencies that the Kremlin was using Kaspersky Lab’s anti-virus software to steal American hacking tools, US media has reported.
Kaspersky, which is a Russian business, had been held in high regards by the cybersecurity community until this year when US officials began to call for its software to be prohibited from government departments.
Criticism of the software was first raised following accusations of Russian interference in the US presidential election, although did not present any arguments regarding its safety.
The Wall Street Journal reported this month that Kremlin-sponsored hackers had used Kaspersky’s software to steal National Security Agency information from the computer of a contractor who had taken the classified material home.
On Wednesday, The New York Times cited “multiple people who have been briefed on the matter” in a report claiming that it was Israeli hackers who discovered Russian hackers using the anti-virus software to steal American hacking tools.
The Israeli hackers are described as having spotted Russian hackers searching for NSA hacking tools after they themselves breached Kaspersky’s internal systems.
Kaspersky’s complicity in the Kremlin’s cyber-burglary has not been attested by reports, although the company and its founder Eugene Kaspersky have consistently denied wrongdoing.
Anti-virus software requires access to all of a computer’s files in order to function, but it is not known whether hackers could access the central repository comparing virus signatures to “search” files on computers with the software installed.
In a statement at the time of The Wall Street Journal article, Kaspersky said: “As a private company, (we do) not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia, and the only conclusion seems to be that Kaspersky Lab is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight.”
Responding to Sky News on Wednesday, Kaspersky Labs restated that it was “not involved in and does not possess any knowledge of the situation in question”.
“As the integrity of our products is fundamental to our business, Kaspersky Lab patches any vulnerabilities it identifies or that are reported to the company.
“Kaspersky Lab reiterates its willingness to work alongside US authorities to address any concerns they may have about its products as well as its systems, and respectfully requests any relevant, verifiable information that would help the company in its own investigation to certifiably refute the false accusations.”
The NSA, the White House and the Israeli embassy in Washington have not commented on the matter.
The New York Times said that the Russian embassy had not responded to a request for comment.