US electronics retailer Best Buy Co has stopped selling products by leading computer security firm Kaspersky Lab amid concerns the company has links to Russian intelligence, the two companies confirmed on Friday.
The big-box retailer, which has stores across the US, did not announce the change itself, but its Web site was no longer offering Kaspersky products and numerous social media reports said they were not on store shelves anymore.
A Best Buy spokeswoman confirmed in an e-mail reports that the action was taken due to concerns over Kaspersky’s alleged links to the Russian government.
Kaspersky, which denies Russian government links, said the two firms “have suspended their relationship at this time.”
“However, the relationship may be re-evaluated in the future,” it said in a statement.
The security software vendor, founded in 1977 by Russia-born Eugene Kaspersky, operates a global business with an estimated 400 million product users.
In July, the US government removed Kaspersky from its list of approved vendors, weeks after top US intelligence agency and law enforcement officials publicly expressed concerns about the safety of its software.
Last week, Democratic US Senator Jeanne Shaheen said she was introducing legislation to ban US government bodies from using Kaspersky software.
However, no evidence has been presented to back up vague assertions that it might be a tool of Moscow, offering Russian spies backdoor entry into computers worldwide.
A top official of a Kaspersky competitor this week told reporters on condition of anonymity that he did not believe the allegations.
However, he said Russia and China are increasingly treating his and other US cybersecurity firms with intense suspicion and constricting their market access.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying that Russian technology companies would lose out on state orders unless they switch to using homegrown software.
Putin said that, in some spheres, state institutions could not work with companies running foreign software, because that represented a risk for national cybersecurity.
“In terms of security, there are things that are critically important for the state, for sustaining life in certain sectors and regions,” Interfax news agency quoted Putin as telling a meeting with Russian technology producers.
“And if you are going to bring in hardware and software in such quantities, then in certain areas the state will inevitably say to you: ‘You know, we cannot buy that, because somewhere a button will be pressed and here everything will go down,’” the agency quoted him as saying. “So bear that in mind.”
Russian state institutions have been gradually switching to using domestic technology as part of a Kremlin drive to cut imports. That drive accelerated after Western states imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.
However, private firms in Russia still primarily use imported technology.
Putin’s officials have said that Russia needs to tighten up its cybersecurity to protect it from attacks mounted by foreign intelligence agencies.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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