It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies, as the New York Times said, revealing how Israeli intelligence officers “looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs.”
According to a report in The New York Times, Israeli intelligence officials were spying on hackers linked to the Russian government.
In the process, they broke into Kaspersky’s systems and found Russian hackers were using the anti-virus software “as a sort of Google search engine for sensitive information”.
The Israeli officials handed over screenshots and documentation of the hack to their US counterparts.
This led the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to direct federal departments and agencies to remove Kaspersky Lab products from their information systems.
The US Department of Homeland Security said it was concerned about ties between company officials and the Russian intelligence services.
Kaspersky Lab later denied that it has ties to the Kremlin.
“Given that Kaspersky Lab doesn’t have inappropriate ties with any government, the company is disappointed with the decision by the US Department of Homeland Security, and we will use this opportunity to provide additional information to the agency in order to confirm that these allegations are completely unfounded,” Kaspersky Lab’s CEO Eugene Kaspersky said in a statement.
“No credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organisation as the accusations are based on false allegations and inaccurate assumptions, including the claims about Russian regulations and policies impacting the company,” he added.
Russia also issued a statement, condemning the US move. The statement issued by its embassy in New York said that the move would prolong an ongoing diplomatic dispute between the two nations.
“These steps can only evoke regrets. They only move back the prospects of bilateral ties recovery,” it said.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a veteran of Israel’s cyber intelligence apparatus as saying the reports in the US media were not “necessarily good for Israel.”
“It could reveal our capabilities and the fact that we are targeting Russian companies.” Wednesday’s reports are just the latest in a series of cases over the last few years in which Israeli intelligence operations have leaked, almost certainly from the Trump administration, to the American media, the Haaretz reported.