Report: NSA, GCHQ Actively Targeted Kaspersky Lab, Other Security Vendors

Snowden documents reveal government intelligence agencies were working to subvert security software. Kaspersky Lab calls nation-states' targeting of security companies 'extremely worrying.'

Sara Peters, Senior Editor

June 23, 2015

2 Min Read

The National Security Agency and the U.K.'s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have hacked information security companies, actively working to subvert security products from as far back as 2008, according to documents released by Edward Snowden, according to a report by The Intercept.

Many security firms were mentioned, but none of them American or British. Although F-Secure, ESET, Avast, BitDefender, AVG, and Checkpoint were all on the list, Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab was particularly singled out.

According to The Intercept, GCHQ reverse-engineered Kaspersky's anti-virus software looking for vulnerabilities that could be subverted. The NSA, meanwhile, spied on Kaspersky's inbound email, looking for customers' reports of new malware. The agency reported then would repurpose that malware for their own use, and periodically check to see if Kaspersky had updated its anti-virus software to detect it.

This news comes less than two weeks after Kaspersky Lab revealed that the nation-state attack group behind the Duqu malware (believed to be used for intelligence gathering in preparation for the Stuxnet attacks on Iran's nuclear facility) had compromised the company's corporate network. No official attribution has been made, but unofficially fingers have been pointed at Israel. Duqu 2.0 seemed to be looking for information about Kaspersky's latest technologies and research, but the company could not be any more certain than that.

"As noted during the recent Duqu 2.0 nation-state sponsored attack, we find it extremely worrying that government organizations are targeting security companies instead of focusing their resources against legitimate adversaries and are actively working to subvert security software that is designed to keep us all safe," Kaspersky Lab said in a statement provided to Dark Reading today.

"At Kaspersky Lab we diligently work to protect our users and to keep our products secure through intense code review and vulnerability assessment efforts. We are closely reviewing and investigating the information disclosed today in order to assess the potential level of risk it may pose to our infrastructure and how to effectively mitigate it. Once again, we would like to stress the need for security companies to work together as a community and fight for user privacy, the right to privacy on the Internet, thwart mass surveillance and make the world a safer place," the company said.

About the Author(s)

Sara Peters

Senior Editor

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad of other topics. She authored the 2009 CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey and founded the CSI Working Group on Web Security Research Law -- a collaborative project that investigated the dichotomy between laws regulating software vulnerability disclosure and those regulating Web vulnerability disclosure.

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