Speed Reads

cyber security

Russian hackers used Kaspersky Lab antivirus software to filch NSA tools, and Israeli spies caught them stealing

In 2014 and 2015, Israeli government hackers watched in real time as Russian spies used Russian firm Kaspersky Lab's antivirus software as "a sort of Google search for sensitive information" using code names for U.S. intelligence programs, The New York Times reported Tuesday, and among the things the Israelis discovered on Kaspersky's network were hacking tools from the U.S. National Security Agency. Israel warned the NSA, which tracked the breach to an employee who had brought classified documents home and put them on his home computer, which used Kaspersky antivirus software, inadvertently handing the tools to the Russians.

On Sept. 13, the Homeland Security Department ordered U.S. government agencies to quickly phase out the use of Kaspersky software, citing the risk of cyber intrusions on behalf of Russian intelligence. Kaspersky said on Tuesday that it "does not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia," and "has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts." Experts aren't sure how much of a role, if any, Kaspersky Lab played in the Russian cyber theft.

The NSA does not allow Kaspersky software on its computers — antivirus software "is the ultimate back door," former NSA operator Blake Darché tells the Times — but nearly two dozen government agencies did, including the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Energy Department.