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Thursday
Jul132017

What to know about the Russian cyberfirm pulled from US contractor list

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's one of the world’s biggest and most powerful companies that you may have never heard of until recently, when U.S. lawmakers and national security officials began publicly raising concerns about the Moscow-based firm.

Products from the company, Kaspersky Lab, are embedded in countless U.S. homes, businesses and government systems.

Just this week -- in what one senior U.S. intelligence official called a "big move" -- the Trump administration stripped Kaspersky Lab from the U.S. government's list of vendors approved to work with federal agencies. The action will likely only affect future contracts, ABC News was told.

And two weeks ago, FBI agents went to the homes of U.S.-based Kaspersky Lab employees, looking to talk with them about the company's alleged ties with the Russian government, according to sources.

But what exactly is Kaspersky Lab? And why are U.S. officials concerned about it?

What they do

Kaspersky Lab is a cybersecurity company with two big missions: It develops software to protect your computer from hackers, and it investigates the secret tools being used by the world’s best cyberthieves and cyberspies.

The company was founded 20 years ago by Eugene Kaspersky and it now has offices in 32 countries, with at least two of those offices in the United States.

Its antivirus software is one of the most well-regarded cybersecurity products in the world. (You may have heard of industry giants like McAfee or Norton antivirus. Kaspersky Lab is almost always right there with them on lists of "most popular" and "most effective" cybersolutions.)

Famous findings

Kaspersky Lab has helped reveal some of the biggest cyberweapons ever used by foreign spies and criminal hackers.

When a malicious "worm" known as "WannaCry" began taking personal and government computers hostage in more than 100 countries two months ago, Kaspersky Lab researchers were the ones who publicly pointed the finger at the regime in North Korea.

"Kaspersky Lab was on the front lines protecting against this massive cyberthreat," Eugene Kaspersky recently said.

In 2013, Kaspersky Lab outed what it called Red October, an alleged Russian hacking campaign to spy on diplomatic agencies in Eastern Europe.

Kaspersky Lab researchers were also behind the 2010 discovery of Stuxnet, the U.S. National Security Agency's special cyberbomb targeting Iranian nuclear facilities that later became the subject of an award-winning documentary titled Zero Days.

And in April, the firm released the results of a yearlong investigation it conducted into what it called "one of the largest, most successful cyberheists ever," involving the theft of $81 million from a bank in Bangladesh.

Are you using Kaspersky Lab products?

Kaspersky Lab estimates that it serves about 400 million customers around the world. Its relatively inexpensive products are available online and in-store at U.S. retailers like Target and Best Buy.

Indeed, many laptops sold at places like Best Buy are pre-loaded by manufacturers with Kaspersky Lab software.

In a recent interview with ABC News, Eugene Kaspersky said he’s "very happy" with his company's "consumer" and "small business" footprint inside the United States "but, unfortunately, we still have a lot of challenges" in other U.S. segments.

An investigation by ABC News earlier this year found many local, state and federal government agencies relying on Kaspersky Lab software to protect their systems.

The full extent to which federal systems use Kaspersky Lab software is hard to determine because the antivirus software is often folded into package deals with outside vendors and subcontractors.

But ABC News confirmed that the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. agency that announces recalls of dangerous products, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and some segments of the Defense Department were employing Kaspersky Lab products.

Why are U.S. officials concerned?

Eugene Kaspersky has outright rejected U.S. officials' concerns about his company, dismissing them as "unfounded conspiracy theories."

The U.S. government has yet to publicly present any evidence to support or further explain its concerns. But in speaking about the matter publicly, U.S. officials repeatedly make a few key points.

Most notably, U.S. officials cite “alarming ties” between the Kremlin and Kaspersky Lab, as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., recently put it. There is now "a consensus in Congress and among administration officials that Kaspersky Lab cannot be trusted," Shaheen said in a recent statement.

"Although there is no public evidence of collusion between Kaspersky Lab and the Russian government, it’s not a large leap," Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., recently said at a congressional hearing.

U.S. officials also point to top executives within the company who have previous ties to Russian intelligence and military services.

Eugene Kaspersky himself was trained at a KGB-sponsored technical school. His company's chief legal officer, Igor Chekunov, previously worked for Russia's border patrol, which reported to the KGB.

And COO Andrey Tikhonov previously served as a lieutenant colonel in the Russian military, spending much of his service focused on information technology programs.

Cybersecurity firms from the United States and elsewhere similarly hire former government security officials as top executives.

In his interview with ABC New, Eugene Kaspersky said of Chekunov and Tikhonov: "I am 100 percent sure they don't have any wrong relations with the Russian government."

He reiterated that company executives "don't have a close relationship with the Russian government" in a way that could be viewed as "bad meaning."

Nevertheless, current and former U.S. officials worry that -- with the deep access to computer systems provided by all antivirus software -- Kaspersky Lab's products could allow state-sponsored hackers to steal users' files, read private emails or attack critical infrastructure in the United States.

’False allegations’

As concerns about Kaspersky Lab have bubbled into the open in recent months, and as the FBI has pressed ahead with a long-running counterintelligence probe of the company, Kaspersky Lab has repeatedly insisted it poses no threat to customers and would never allow itself to become a tool of the Kremlin.

Here, in full, is a statement issued this week by the company:

"Kaspersky Lab has no ties to any government, and the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts. The company has a 20 year history in the IT security industry of always abiding by the highest ethical business practices and trustworthy development of technologies, and Kaspersky Lab believes it is completely unacceptable that the company is being unjustly accused without any hard evidence to back up these false allegations.

"Kaspersky Lab, a private company, seems to be caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight where each side is attempting to use the company as a pawn in their political game. Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and founder of Kaspersky Lab, has repeatedly offered to meet with government officials, testify before the U.S. Congress and provide the company's source code for an official audit to help address any questions the U.S. government has about the company.

"Kaspersky Lab continues to be available to assist all concerned government organizations with any investigations, and the company ardently believes a deeper examination of Kaspersky Lab will confirm that these allegations are unfounded."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul122017

'Extremely strong' interest in $7.95M Maine island for sale, realtor says

ABC News(HOPE ISLAND, Maine) -- An 86-acre island off the coast of Maine with a six-bedroom, nearly 12,000-square-foot house to call home could be yours for $7.95 million.

If you want the island, you may need to act fast, according to realtor John Saint-Amour, who describes the property as a “special island kingdom.”

“The interest has been extremely strong,” Saint-Amour told ABC News. "I'm getting anywhere from 25 to 40 inquiries per day."

Those interested in the property, known as Hope Island, range from individuals interested in purchasing the island as a "generational property for their families, to others interested in turning the island into a "destination rental island" or bed-and-breakfast, according to Saint-Amour.

The current owner, identified in property records as developer John Cacoulidis, purchased the island in 1993 for $1.3 million. The island had previously been owned by a group of family members who called the Hope Island Club, according to Saint-Amour, who handled the 1993 sale as well.

"The previous owners shared that some of the cast stayed on the island when they filmed 'Whales of August,'" he said of the 1987 movie that starred Bette Davis, Lillian Gish and Vincent Price.

In addition to the human owners, who use the island as a year-round home, the island's residents also include nine horses, chickens, geese and even peacocks. There also are miles of hiking trails on the island and "spectacular views," according to Saint-Amour.

"The main house sits on an elevated site that offers dramatic, sweeping views ... over the islands of Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean," he said. "The balance of the [main house] is really designed as open space that is an ideal venue for entertaining friends and family."

The island is located about a 25-minute boat ride from Portland, which is appealing with its dining and international airport. The island is also equipped for a helicopter landing and has roadways with lampposts to accommodate cars.

Saint-Amour said the current owners were focused on water activities and wildlife, so there are a boathouse, a pier and eight ponds, but no swimming pool or tennis court.

The property is prohibited by zoning regulations from being turned into a hotel or resort.

Saint-Amour said of the island's current owners, "Over 24 years they have thoroughly wrapped their arms around the island as a very special place. I think it’d be their desire for a family or extended family to buy it and continue that legacy, that’d probably make them very happy but they realize another buyer would have potential plans for the property."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul122017

Bend the elbow with "Game of Thrones"-themed Bend The Knee Ale  

Brewery Ommegang(NEW YORK) -- What better way to toast your season 7 debut viewing party Sunday night than with the latest official Game of Thrones beer?

Brewery Ommegang is commemorating the coming conflict between the great houses of Westeros with its latest in the HBO series-themed line: Bend the Knee Golden Ale.

From the company that bottled previous Thrones brews like Take The Black Stout, Iron Throne and Three-Eyed Raven, Bend the Knee is a, “bold and elegant ale brewed with honey,” and “fit for a king…or queen.”

The beer will be available both on draft and in a series of three collectible black bottles, adorned with the crest of the three Great Houses: Stark, Targaryen or Lannister.

What’s more, Winter is coming: That is to say a white ale called “Winter Is Here,” which will be available in the fall both on draft, or paired alongside previously released Fire and Blood Red Ale in a collectible gift pack complete with a commemorative glass.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul122017

Tobacco company Philip Morris ordered to compensate Australia 

Wavebreak Media(SYDNEY) --The Australian government is telling tobacco giant Philip Morris to pay up.

The government ordered Philip Morris to pay millions of dollars in legal costs after the company unsuccessfully sued the country over its "plain-packaging" laws, according to the BBC.

In 2012, Australia enacted a first-of-its-kind law that required cigarettes to be sold in "unappealing packages with graphic health warnings," the BBC reported.

Philip Morris tried to get the laws overturned, but a court dismissed its claim in 2015.

Now, the Australian government wants the company to pay its legal fees, which the Sydney Morning Herald reported could be as high as $50 million. The exact sum was redacted from the court decision.

Philip Morris isn't the only tobacco company that wasn't happy with the Australian packaging laws.  Along with Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco launched a constitutional challenge in the country's highest court, the BBC reported.

That bid failed, but Philip Morris went to the international Permanent Court of Arbitration to argue that the legislation violated Australia's Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong.

The court dismissed the case, calling it an "abuse of rights," according to the BBC.

Philip Morris then unsuccessfully argued that the legal costs were "unreasonable," citing comparable claims made by Canada and the U.S., which reached $4.5 million at the highest.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul122017

Trump administration pulls Russian cyber firm from government-approved list

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration has decided to remove one of the world's biggest and most-respected cybersecurity firms from the U.S. government's list of companies whose products are approved for use on federal systems, according to U.S. officials.

The decision comes as the Moscow-based company, Kaspersky Lab, faces increasing scrutiny from U.S. officials over alleged ties to Russian intelligence services.

The government list -- known as a schedule -- is maintained by the General Services Administration, and GSA "made the decision to remove Kaspersky Lab-manufactured products" after "review and careful consideration," a GSA spokeswoman said in a statement to ABC News.

"GSA’s priorities are to ensure the integrity and security of U.S. government systems and networks and evaluate products and services available on our contracts using supply chain risk management processes," the statement added.

Removing Kaspersky Lab from the General Services Administration's (GSA) list would likely affect only future contracts, ABC News was told.

As of Tuesday evening, Kaspersky Lab had not been notified of the decision, according to a company spokeswoman.

For weeks, the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, the GSA and other federal agencies conducted an interagency review of the matter, sources said. And ABC News reported earlier Wednesday that the Trump administration was considering such a move.

The final decision to remove Kaspersky Lab from the GSA schedule marks the most significant and far-reaching response yet to concerns among U.S. officials that Russian intelligence services could try to exploit Kaspersky Lab's anti-virus software to steal and manipulate users' files, read private emails or attack critical infrastructure in the United States.

The company has repeatedly insisted it poses no threat to U.S. customers and would never allow itself to be used as a tool of the Russian government.

Kaspersky Lab's CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, recently said any concerns about his company are based in "ungrounded speculation and all sorts of other made-up things," adding that he and his company "have no ties to any government, and we have never helped nor will help any government in the world with their cyberespionage efforts."

Nevertheless, the FBI has been pressing ahead with a long-running counterintelligence probe of the company, and in June, FBI agents interviewed about a dozen U.S.-based Kaspersky Lab employees at their homes, ABC News was told.

In addition, as ABC News reported in May, the Department of Homeland Security issued in February a secret report on the matter to other government agencies. And three months ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a secret memorandum to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding that the Trump administration address "this important national security issue."

Despite all the private expressions of concern, the issue was first brought into public view only recently by key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who began asking questions about Kaspersky Lab during hearings covering global threats to national security.

Lawmakers and other U.S. officials point to Kaspersky Lab executives with previous ties to Russian intelligence and military agencies as reason for concern.

Three weeks ago, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., took legislative steps to bar the U.S. military from using Kaspersky Lab products.

In a statement Tuesday, she said she was "encouraged" to hear that the Trump administration was potentially "delisting Kaspersky software for use in the federal government."

She called it a "wise precaution" that "would work in concert with my [efforts]."

Eugene Kaspersky, however, called those efforts "an extreme new measure."

"Kaspersky Lab is facing one of the most serious challenges to its business yet, given that members of the U.S. government wrongly believe the company or I or both are somehow tied to the Russian government," he recently wrote on his blog. "Basically, it seems that because I'm a self-made entrepreneur who, due to my age and nationality, inevitably was educated during the Soviet era in Russia, they mistakenly conclude my company and I must be bosom buddies with the Russian intelligence agencies ... Yes, it is that absurdly ridiculous."

U.S. officials have yet to publicly present any evidence indicating concerning links between Kaspersky Lab employees and elements of the Russian government.

"Kaspersky Lab believes it is completely unacceptable that the company is being unjustly accused without any hard evidence to back up these false allegations," the company said in a statement Wednesday. "Kaspersky Lab, a private company, seems to be caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight where each side is attempting to use the company as a pawn in their political game."

But one senior U.S. intelligence official said the fact that the U.S. government was considering the drastic step of removing Kaspersky Lab from the GSA's list of approved vendors shows that such concerns are "nontrivial."

A company lands on the list after hammering out deals with the GSA, which uses "the government's buying power to negotiate discounted pricing," according to the GSA.

Hundreds of "federal customers" and, in some cases, state and local governments can then purchase the company's products without having to each negotiate their own prices, the GSA said in a 2015 brochure about its operations.

"The buying process is simplified because GSA has completed the bulk of the procurement process on behalf of government buyers," the brochure added. As of a few years ago, the information technology portion of the GSA schedule accounted for more than $14 billion of the federal budget, the brochure said.

An ABC News investigation earlier this year found that -- largely through outside vendors -- Kaspersky Lab software has been procured by many federal agencies, including the Bureau of Prisons and some segments of the Defense Department.

Kaspersky Lab products are also used in countless American homes and in state and local agencies across the country.

"Kaspersky Lab continues to be available to assist all concerned government organizations with any investigations, and the company ardently believes a deeper examination of Kaspersky Lab will confirm that these allegations are unfounded," the company said in its statement Wednesday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul112017

Stocks recover after Trump Jr releases emails

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite the Dow sinking 100 points on the latest news on alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, stocks mostly recovered with the Nasdaq Composite closing higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.55 (+0.00 percent) to finish at 21,409.07.

The Nasdaq climbed 16.91 (+0.27 percent) to close at 6,193.30, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,425.53, down 1.90 (-0.08 percent) from its open.

Crude oil was over 1.5 percent higher with prices at $45 per barrel.

Donald Trump Jr.:
President Donald Trump's son released what he said were screen grabs of emails regarding arranging a meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The Dow initially sunk 100 points on the news as investors worried about more Russia concerns, but it has since recovered.

Winners and Losers:  Michael Kors Holdings sunk 7 percent after research firm MKM Partners initiated shares with a sell rating.

The Food and Drug Administration agreed to allow Amicus Therapeutics Inc to submit an application to approve its Fabry disease treatment.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul112017

World travelers love-note courtship through airport Starbucks ends in epic proposal

Anna Havens(NEW YORK) -- It's a modern love story, set in a place familiar to most Americans: Starbucks.

But the old-fashioned nature of the communication -- love notes hidden away in the coffee giant's airport locations around the world -- are what make this engagement story so unique.

Esther Havens and Austin Mann of Dallas, Texas, are both freelance photographers who travel the world. They met in Waco, Texas, and were friends for several years before Mann left Havens a note in a Starbucks in the Amsterdam airport knowing she would be passing through a few days later. He texted her a riddle where to find the note.

"It was then I had this thought, 'what about Austin? He's romantic and fun."

The love story, the notes -- and lots of coffee -- continued over the years. Mann has left dozens of notes -- 20-30 of which Esther has not yet found -- in airports from Los Angeles to New Delhi. He leaves them as he travels and when he find out Esther will be passing through, he lets her know where to look for the note.

"It's a lot of work to hide a note," he said. "You have to find a spot that will hold a note for years. I never know when she'll be passing through."

He thought he had found a particularly good spot in a crack in the wall at a Starbucks in Iceland. He tucked it away. But the next time he was there, the wall had been removed and replaced. So he had to find another place to hide a new note.

Havens once went to a Starbucks in Cambodia in search of a note Austin had left. But the note was gone -- all the remained was the tape that he used to hold it in place.

"Still, though, it was like, 'oh you were here!"' Havens said of finding the tape and knowing Austin had been in the same spot too.

When it came time to propose, Mann knew it had to happen in the Amsterdam airport Starbucks. Havens' flight from Tanzania was to land just past 7 a.m., and Austin arranged to be there, along with Havens' younger sister, about an hour earlier. He had told her there was a note waiting for her. They waited and waited, and as the time passed, the baristas, along with the other customers, grew more excited as the time for Havens to arrive drew near.

But there was a holdup familiar to every traveler. Security. Havnes texted Mann that she wouldn't make it after all.

Mann said he started racing toward where Esther was. He was almost there when he got another text. “Never mind. Got through security and going to pick up the note now.”

"I doubled back on the moving sidewalk. Her sister and I were shielding our faces, hoping she wouldn't see us. We got back to the Starbucks and I had everything ready -- flowers, cameras. I knew she was on her way. And then I realized I still had the note."

He raced across the Starbucks to the nook where the note was to be discovered and left it. 23 seconds later, Havnes walked in.

"I saw the note and it wasn't hidden," she said. "My heart started pounding. I couldn't even read the words because I was like, "it's happening,' I had to force myself to slow down and absorb what he wrote. It was a long and beautiful note. And then I saw him standing there. I didn't realize everyone was in on it until they all started cheering."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul112017

Wine dating from American Revolution discovered at historic NJ house

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New Jersey museum recently discovered wine dating back to just after the American Revolution.

During a six-month renovation of the wine cellar on the historic grounds of the Liberty Hall Museum, the team found three cases of Madeira wine believed to be from 1796 and an additional 42 demijohns believed to be from the 1820s.

"It's a very large historic house museum originally from 1770 and over the last five to six years we decided to take the house room by room and make repairs and update and evaluate a lot of the structures," Bill Schroh, director of museum operations at Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University, told ABC News.

"We decided to restore the wine cellar, which hadn't been looked over since 1949 and we never could have imagined finding what we did," he added.

According to Schroh, the museum team found what they believe are revolutionary-era spirits from six different time periods in old wooden crates, covered in dust. They appear to have been shipped to John Kean in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

"It turned out there were three crates of it and inside were bottles labeled 'Robert Lenox of Philadelphia 1796,' when they were first bottled," he added. "The wine had been re-bottled once it came over to America. We also found 42 of large casks, demijohns, covered in wicker, that date back to 1820."

"We had to do the research, but luckily for us it was all there so we didn't run against a dead end at all," Schroh explained. "We could go even further to find out about Lenox."

The museum had the wine tested by The Rare Wine Co., a California-based premier wine merchant, which helped confirm its authenticity and highlighted some of its historical features.

According to the wine company's founder Mannie Berk, Madeira was one of the most prestigious wines in the British colonies.

"By the time of the American Revolution, [Madeira] had become a fortified wine of compelling character, and it was this wine that achieved a place in American popular culture unique in its history," Berk wrote in an article for Rare Wine Co.

After the wine cellar renovations were completed, the demijohns, original wooden shipping crates and full bottles of Madeira were put on display inside the museum as part of the exhibit open to the public.

"We kept some of it in the antique wine cages, but it's also on display cabinets along with racks and other displays inside the wine cellar. People can come, see it and learn about the history from Colonial times," Schroh said.

The Liberty Hall Museum is located on the campus of Kean University in Union, New Jersey, which was founded in 1855.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul112017

Trump administration considering government-wide ban on popular Russian software

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is on the verge of deciding whether to block all federal agencies from using products developed by a popular Russian cyber-security firm, which is under increasing scrutiny for alleged ties to Russian intelligence services, government sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

A final decision could be made in the coming days over whether to strip the Moscow-based firm, Kaspersky Lab, from the General Services Administration's (GSA) list of outside vendors whose products are approved for use by government agencies, the sources said.

"That's a big move and is going to have some legal implications," one senior U.S. intelligence official told ABC News.

Removing Kaspersky Lab from the list -- known as the "GSA Schedule" -- would likely only impact future contracts, ABC News was told.

If the Trump administration does move to block government agencies from using the company's products, it would mark the most significant and far-reaching response yet to concerns among current U.S. officials that Russian intelligence services could try to exploit Kaspersky Lab's anti-virus software to steal and manipulate users' files, read private emails or attack critical infrastructure in the United States.

For weeks, the White House, Department of Homeland Security, GSA and other federal agencies have been conducting an "interagency review" of the matter, sources said.

The company has repeatedly insisted it poses no threat to U.S. customers and would never allow itself to be used as a tool of the Russian government.

Kaspersky Lab's CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, recently said any concerns about his company are based in "ungrounded speculation and all sorts of other made-up things," adding that he and his company "have no ties to any government, and we have never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with their cyber-espionage efforts."

Nevertheless, the FBI has been pressing ahead with a long-running counterintelligence probe of the company, and in June FBI agents interviewed about a dozen U.S.-based Kaspersky Lab employees at their homes, ABC News was told.

In addition, as ABC News reported in May, the Department of Homeland Security in February issued a secret report on the matter to other government agencies. And three months ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a secret memorandum to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding that the Trump administration address "this important national security issue."

Despite all the private expressions of concern, the issue was first brought into public view by key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who began asking questions about Kaspersky Lab during recent hearings covering global threats to U.S. national security.

Lawmakers and other U.S. officials point to Kaspersky Lab executives with previous ties to Russian intelligence and military agencies as reason for concern.

Three weeks ago, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen took legislative steps to ban the U.S. military from using Kaspersky Lab products.

There is "a consensus in Congress and among administration officials that Kaspersky Lab cannot be trusted to protect critical infrastructure," Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat and key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement after introducing an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill.

Eugene Kaspersky called Shaheen’s move "an extreme new measure."

"Kaspersky Lab is facing one of the most serious challenges to its business yet, given that members of the U.S. government wrongly believe the company or I or both are somehow tied to the Russian government," he recently wrote on his blog. "Basically, it seems that because I'm a self-made entrepreneur who, due to my age and nationality, inevitably was educated during the Soviet era in Russia, they mistakenly conclude my company and I must be bosom buddies with the Russian intelligence agencies. ... Yes it is that absurdly ridiculous."

U.S. officials have yet to publicly present any evidence indicating concerning links between Kaspersky Lab employees and elements of the Russian government.

But one senior U.S. intelligence official said the fact that the U.S. government is considering the drastic step of removing Kaspersky Lab from the GSA's list of approved vendors shows that such concerns are "non-trivial."

A company lands on the list after hammering out deals with the GSA, which uses "the government's buying power to negotiate discounted pricing," according to the GSA.

Hundreds of "federal customers," and in some cases state and local governments, can then purchase the company's products without having to each negotiate their own prices, the GSA said in a 2015 brochure about its operations.

"The buying process is simplified because GSA has completed the bulk of the procurement process on behalf of government buyers," the brochure noted.

As of a few years ago, the information technology portion of the GSA Schedule accounted for more than $14 billion of the federal budget, the brochure said.

An ABC News investigation earlier this year found that -- largely through outside vendors -- Kaspersky Lab software has been procured by many federal agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and some segments of the Defense Department.

Kaspersky Lab products are also used in countless American homes, and in state and local agencies across the country.

"[W]e've offered the U.S. government any assistance it might need to help clarify the ongoing confusion regarding the falsely perceived threat they wrongly believe our products and technologies pose," Eugene Kaspersky wrote on his blog. "We're even willing to meet with any of them and give them our source code to thoroughly review it, as we’ve got nothing to hide. We want the government, our users and the public to fully understand that having Russian roots does not make us guilty."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul102017

Tech stocks lead Wall Street with gains

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tech stocks boosted Wall Street on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 5.82 (-0.03 percent) to finish at 21,408.52.

The Nasdaq jumped 23.31 (+0.38 percent) to close at 6,176.39, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,427.43, up 2.25 (+0.09 percent) from its open.

Crude oil was about 0.41 percent higher with prices over $44 per barrel.

Winners and Losers: 
Abercrombie & Fitch announced it is no longer for sale, causing its stock to tumble 21 percent.

Shares of Tesla climbed 1 percent after CEO Elon Musk shared photos of the electric auto-maker's first Model 3.

Amazon's stock jumped 2 percent the day of "Prime Day" and after reports that the online retail giant is developing its own "Geek Squad." Best Buy shares sunk 6 percent on the news.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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