Kaspersky sets worrying precedent by offering US government its code source

There is a worrying trend growing within the technology sector. In the past few weeks governments around the world have been piling on the pressure for technology companies to hand over their trade secrets or risk losing out on business.

The latest tech company to bow to the wills of government pressure is Kaspersky. Understandably worried that it might lose US government contracts over allegations that it is working with the Russian government, founder Eugene Kaspersky has said that he is willing to turn over source code to prove that his security company is not a cover for Russian spies. He said he will do ‘anything’ to prove his company’s intensions, including testifying in front of Congress. “Anything I can do to prove that we don’t behave maliciously I will do it,” Kaspersky added.

The company’s willingness to share its source code comes after the Senate proposed that the national defense department would be ‘prohibited from using software developed by Kaspersky Lab’. It added: “The Secretary of Defense shall ensure that any network connection between… the Department of Defense and a department or agency of the United States Government that is using or hosting on its networks a software platform [associated with Kaspersky Lab] is immediately severed.”

The Russian government has made similar requests of technology companies, in recent weeks. The likes of Cisco, IBM, Hewlett Packard, McAfee, and SAP have all agreed to give over their ‘code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption’, according to Reuters. Symantec refused to meet Russia’s demands on the grounds that they ‘pose a risk to the integrity of our products that we are not willing to accept’.

Security firm Symantec pointedly refused to cooperate with Russian demands last week. “It poses a risk to the integrity of our products that we are not willing to accept,” a Symantec spokesperson said in a statement.

There is now a real danger of companies being forced to hand over source code access or lose out on future business deals. The reason this is worrying, is that source code gives governments the opportunity to locate security lapses – and exploit them – that they wouldn’t find otherwise.

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