Best Buy is pulling internet security software from a Russian company off its shelves and from its website amid outside concerns that Kaspersky Lab could have links to the Russian government.
The decision was prompted by media reports, congressional testimony and industry discussion raising questions about Moscow-based Kaspersky, a respected cybersecurity firm. The Richfield-based retailer, which has not conducted its own investigation, felt there were too many unanswered questions and so has decided to discontinue selling the products, according to a person familiar with the decision.
Kaspersky Lab, which boasts it has more than 400 million users, said in a statement that it does not have any unethical ties or inappropriate affiliations with any governments, including Russia.
“The only conclusion seems to be that Kaspersky Lab ... is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight, and it’s being treated unfairly even though the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts,” the company said.
Kaspersky added that it has had a good relationship with Best Buy and that the current suspension of its products could be re-evaluated in the future. In the meantime, its software continues to be sold through its own website and through other retailers such as Target, Walmart.com, Amazon.com and Staples.com.
At the same time, some federal lawmakers are pressing for legislation that would ban the U.S. government from using Kaspersky’s software. They are on heightened alert about Russian hackers in the wake of their interference in the U.S. presidential election.
Company e-mails from Kaspersky that have surfaced in the media also have raised suspicions of a link between Kaspersky and the Kremlin.
In an op-ed that ran in the New York Times this week, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., noted that six top intelligence officials, including the heads of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency, recently testified that they would not be comfortable with Kaspersky Lab software on their agencies’ computers.
“Beyond the evidence of direct links between [Eugene] Kaspersky and the Russian government, we cannot ignore the indirect links inherent in doing business in the Russia of President Vladimir Putin, where oligarchs and tycoons have no choice but to cooperate with the Kremlin,” she wrote.
A Best Buy spokesman confirmed that the products will no longer be sold at Best Buy but offered no further information because the company doesn’t comment on its relationships with vendors.
“In light of what we know about Kaspersky Lab and Russia’s cyberattacks on our private and public networks, this is a very sound decision,” said U.S Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Best Buy had carried three internet security software brands, including Kaspersky’s. The Kaspersky software, which it sold for more than a decade, does not come preloaded on computers that are sold at Best Buy. Rather, it is an extra product available for purchase that customers can load themselves.
Best Buy will allow customers who have bought Kaspersky software from it, and who still have active subscriptions, to exchange it for free for another product in the next 45 days. Customers also can uninstall it themselves or have a Geek Squad agent do it for free within that time window.
The Kaspersky Internet Security software has received generally positive reviews from Best Buy users with a 4.3 star rating among more than 1,800 reviews. The software is aimed at protecting computers from malware, hackers, banner ads and spam.
Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113