Kaspersky, China Telecom, China Mobile named 'threats to US national security'

First Russian addition to FCC's Very Naughty List apparently unconnected to illegal invasion of Ukraine

The United States' Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has labelled Kaspersky, China Mobile, and China Telecom as threats to national security.

The three companies join Huawei, ZTE, Chinese radio-comms vendor Hytera, and Chinese video surveillance systems vendors Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company and Dahua Technology Company.

Kaspersky is the first non-Chinese company to be added to the FCC's list, but the agency did not tie its decision to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine.

The companies were named under the USA's Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 – a law that "prohibits the use of certain federal funds to obtain communications equipment or services from a company that poses a national security risk to US communications networks."

While the FCC's labelling of the three as threats to national security is therefore dramatic, the effect of this news is less so. The pool of funds the Act covers is small, US government agencies were already required to remove Kaspersky products in 2017, and US operations of China Mobile and China Telecom were already constrained by the Clean Network plan's requirement that no Chinese carriers touch US networks.

The two carriers do not have extensive US operations and must surely also have seen this coming – the FCC has publicly pondered their status since at least 2019.

Kaspersky commented on its newfound status with its usual arguments: the decision was political, rather than based on a technical assessment of its products or public evidence of wrongdoing.

"Kaspersky believes today's expansion of such prohibition on entities that receive FCC telecommunication-related subsidies is similarly unsubstantiated and is a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the integrity of Kaspersky's products and services," a company statement reads.

China's embassy in the USA has described the listing as an abuse of state power made without evidence, and further evidence of unreasonable and anti-competitive behavior.

Which makes the FCC's actions – and the newly listed entities' responses – business as usual rather than any sort of policy shift. Although naming the three companies as national security risks does make it utterly plain why the US government has acted. ®

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