The United States government removed Kaspersky Lab from the General Services Administration's list of approved vendors that are recommended for certain types of government contracts, primarily those related to information technology (IT) solutions and digital photography, sources with knowledge of the decision said, adding that the Russian software firm was officially sanctioned on Tuesday. The move doesn't completely forbid the use of Kaspersky Lab's software by U.S. agencies, though it severely inhibits the process of acquiring it for any state business. The decision itself is said to have been prompted by the recently growing tensions between the U.S. and Russia, with the former fearing that Kaspersky Lab is collaborating with Kremlin and may provide crucial information gathered from the U.S. government to Russia, allowing it to access Washington's critical networks.
Kaspersky was the subject of significant scrutiny from U.S. agencies in recent months, with many members of the intelligence community believing that the Moscow-based firm is too close to Rusia's state spying network that was previously alleged to have hacked the 2016 presidential election in the United States. The GSA later described the move as being a carefully planned attempt "to ensure the integrity and security of U.S. government systems and networks," as reported by Reuters. The agency's decision to delist the Russian software firm is the most severe sanction issued by any government body against Kaspersky Lab so far, with the company claiming that it wasn't notified of the change and is just a victim of the rising tensions between the U.S. and its home country. Some domestic intelligence officers still aren't convinced by that argument, with recent reports indicating that Kaspersky's ties to Kremlin go as back as the 20th century and the company's Founder and Chief Executive Officer Eugene Kaspersky who worked as a Soviet intelligence officer and previously attended a university founded by the KGB.
It's currently unclear whether the GSA has any plans to re-list the firm as an approved software vendor, though that doesn't seem like a probable scenario. The wording of the GSA statement on the matter indicates that the sanction wasn't prompted by an order from a senior member of the Trump administration, though it remains to be seen whether some high-ranking government official elaborates on the situation in the following weeks.