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08-Dec-2016 20:33

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.

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.

intelligence agencies have turned up the heat in recent days on Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based cybersecurity giant long suspected of ties to Russia’s spying apparatus.

After this story was initially published, the company said it and other high-tech companies that seek to sell products to the Russian government receive their certifications from the Center for Information Protection and Special Communications, known by the FSB military unit number on Kaspersky's certificates.

A former Western intelligence official who examined the documents for Mc Clatchy described as “very unusual” the assignment of a military intelligence number on Kaspersky’s certificates.

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.

The company also has a record of exposing cyberattacks, including the U. government’s Stuxnet attack that disabled Iran’s nuclear weapons development even though the Iranian equipment wasn’t connected to the Internet.

But several other experts said they were “not shocked” by the disclosure of the language in Kaspersky’s FSB certificate.

“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.

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.

The company also has a record of exposing cyberattacks, including the U. government’s Stuxnet attack that disabled Iran’s nuclear weapons development even though the Iranian equipment wasn’t connected to the Internet.

But several other experts said they were “not shocked” by the disclosure of the language in Kaspersky’s FSB certificate.

“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.