Since May, there has been an ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian hacking of the 2016 election. There have been multiple reports of staff meeting with Russian officials, including a meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with Russian attorneys last fall.
Now, it appears that hackers working for the Russian government have stolen important National Security Agency data on cyber defense. According to MSN News:
‘Hackers working for the Russian government stole details of how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks after a National Security Agency contractor removed the highly classified material and put it on his home computer, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter.’
The contractor had been using an anti-virus software made by the Russia-based Kaspersky Lab and his files were easily identified this way. This hacking is considered to be “one of the most significant security breaches in recent years.” This is an example of how the intelligence community thinks Russian intelligence exploits a widely available commercial software products to spy on the U.S.
Although the incident actually occurred in 2015, it wasn’t discovered until last spring. The material that was hacked included information about how the NSA penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for spying, and how it defends networks inside the U.S. MSN News reported:
‘Having such information could give the Russian government information on how to protect its own networks, making it more difficult for the NSA to conduct its work. It also could give the Russians methods to infiltrate the networks of the U.S. and other nations, these people said.’
This was the first known incident in which Russian hackers are believed to have used the Kaspersky software in a significant breach to conduct espionage against the U.S. government. Kaspersky sells its anti-virus software in the U.S. and generated a revenue of more than half a billion dollars in Western Europe and the Americas in 2016.
According to MSN:
‘The name of the NSA contractor in the Kaspersky-related incident and the company he worked for aren’t publicly known. People familiar with the matter said he is thought to have purposely taken home numerous documents and other materials from NSA headquarters, possibly to continue working beyond his normal office hours.’
It is unclear whether the NSA contractor remains at his job or faces charges, but the incident continues to be under federal investigation.
Eugene Kaspersky, the chariman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab tweeted this:
U.S. National Security officials highly suspect Kaspersky Lab is a proxy of the Russian government, being that it was founded by a computer scientist who was trained at a KGB-sponsored technical school. The Kaspersky company said in a statement:
‘As a private company, Kaspersky Lab does not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts.’
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security banned all U.S. government departments and agencies from using Kaspersky products and services last month.
Featured image by Sergei Konkov\TASS via Getty Images