Citation needed: Europe claims Kaspersky wares 'confirmed as malicious'

Motion passed to eject Russian software from bloc institutions


The Kaspersky bad news train just keeps rolling on with Strasbourg Eurocrats having adopted a motion today (A8-0189/2018, en français) that could ban its wares from European Union institutions.

The wide-ranging non-binding motion is primarily concerned with cyber defence, stating that "the EU and the Member States face an unprecedented threat in the form of politically motivated, state-sponsored cyber attacks".

The Member of the European Parliament (MEP) responsible, Urmas Paet, optimistically rated the EU a "two" on a scale of one to five (five being total failure) where cyber defence was concerned, but said more needed to be done, with all member states needing to improve their cooperation.

Paet went on to say: "We have to be ready to go on the offensive. It is not enough to simply defend, sometimes it's important to get active, for example, when you know where the attacks come from."

In this instance, that would appear to mean Kaspersky Lab, who get a name-check in the text of the motion:

76. Calls on the EU to perform a comprehensive review of software, IT and communications equipment and infrastructure used in the institutions in order to exclude potentially dangerous programmes and devices, and to ban the ones that have been confirmed as malicious, such as Kaspersky Lab

The motion follows the example of the Dutch government, which announced plans to phase out use of the Russian antivirus vendor's wares last month despite Kaspersky's promised transparency initiative.

The UK and US have already taken steps to remove Kaspersky from government departments over suspicions of Russian state involvement in the software, something Kaspersky itself has been at pains to deny. Legal action by the software maker against the US lock-out has thus far been unsuccessful.

At the time of the Netherlands' ban, Graham Cluley, an infosec watcher, highlighted the unfairness of Kaspersky's treatment at the hands of the authorities. With no clear evidence of wrongdoing being made public, Kaspersky was having to defend itself against rumour.

The European action calls for a review of all equipment that might be using Kaspersky's products – not just desktop or server installations – and takes things a step further by unambiguously stating that the software has been "confirmed as malicious". One can almost hear the lawyers sharpening their knives.

Martijn Grooten, editor of industry journal Virus Bulletin, agreed the wording was certainly unusual, saying: "The way Kaspersky is mentioned in the EU document is really odd and not a lot of thought seems to have gone into it. I don't think it has ever been 'confirmed as malicious', certainly not in a public and verifiable way."

Eugene Kaspersky reacted in typical style, telling The Register:

This decision from the European Parliament welcomes cybercrime in Europe. I do not wish to do anything to further encourage the balkanization of the internet, but I feel that the decision taken in Europe leaves me with no choice but to take definitive action. Kaspersky Lab has only ever tried to rid the world of cybercrime. We have showed time and again that we disclose cyber threats regardless of origin and author, even to our own detriment. This is a setback for the fight against cyber threat, but we remain undeterred in our mission – to save the world from Cybercrime.

The software company went on to tell El Reg that it had "taken the difficult decision to temporarily halt our numerous collaborative European cybercrime-fighting initiatives, including that with Europol" in response to the vote. It added that the report had no legislative power, and the accusation was based on "untrue statements."

Lawyers are doubtless oiling up the sueball catapult at this very moment. ®

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