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But “the suggestion is that this is a government op (operation), a unit with a direct government affiliation,” he said.“No one should be surprised if there are closer relationships between IT vendors and law enforcement, worldwide, than the public imagines,” Geers said. It’s certainly possible, Geers said, that Kaspersky’s software contains a secret “backdoor” to allow Russian special services access for law enforcement and counterintelligence purposes.“If such a secret backdoor exists, I would not be shocked,” Geers said.

Case in point: Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that American telecommunications companies shared vast amounts of personal data with the ultra-secret U. “A worldwide deployment of sensors may be too great a temptation for any country’s intelligence services to ignore.”“Kaspersky may also have been required by Russian authorities to participate in a quiet business partnership with the government,” he said.

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Now, official Kremlin documents reviewed by Mc Clatchy could further inflame the debate about whether the company’s relationship with Russian intelligence is more than rumor.

Founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky studied cryptography, programming and mathematics at an academy operated by the KGB, the FSB’s Soviet-era predecessor, then worked for the Ministry of Defense.

Since he established the firm in Russia 20 years ago, Kaspersky has grown to serve more than 400 million users worldwide, according to its website, and is the largest software vendor in Europe.

But several other experts said they were “not shocked” by the disclosure of the language in Kaspersky’s FSB certificate.“It is common view around the intelligence community that [Kaspersky] is treated [by the Kremlin] like an arm of the Russian government,” said a former Obama administration cyber official, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Kaspersky has gained an unwanted spotlight lately amid the Justice Department’s investigation headed by outside Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether the Kremlin colluded with President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Kaspersky said the FSB’s certification review “is quite similar to that of many countries,” including those of the European Union and the United States.

Unlike the stamped approvals the FSB routinely issues to companies seeking to operate in Russia, Kaspersky’s include an unusual feature: a military intelligence unit number matching that of an FSB program.“That strikes me as much more persuasive public evidence,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former deputy secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

“It makes it far more likely that much of the rumor and uncertainty about Kaspersky are true.”For years, suspicions that Kaspersky is connected to Russia’s spying apparatus have dogged the company, a leading global seller of anti-virus programs.

But amid investigations into Russia’s cyber meddling in last year’s U. elections, concerns have grown that Kaspersky software could somehow be used to launch a crippling cyberattack on the U. electric grid or other critical infrastructure, such as railroads, airlines or water utilities.

ABC News reported in May that the FBI warned industry leaders about those risks last year – a meeting confirmed by Mc Clatchy.