Best Buy, the biggest electronics retailer in the US, will stop selling products developed by Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Labs, in its stores and on its website, Star Tribune reported on Friday.
Best Buy has been a Kaspersky supplier for over a decade, and the firm's products enjoy a good reputation among the retailer's customers. But according to a source cited by Star Tribune, Best Buy felt there were "too many unanswered questions" about Kaspersky's dealings, which prompted its decision to end its relationship with the firm.
Kaspersky has long raised eyebrows in the US intelligence community and faced increased scrutiny from the US government over its suspected ties to the Kremlin, especially in the wake of Russia's alleged interference in last year's election.
The Trump administration moved to prevent government agencies from using Kaspersky's software in July, and Rob Joyce, President Donald Trump's cybersecurity coordinator, also warned the public against using Kaspersky's products in August.
"I don't use Kaspersky Lab products," Joyce told CBS News in an interview at the time.
When Joyce was asked whether he would recommend those close to him use Kaspersky's products, he said he would not.
"I worry that as a nation state Russia really hasn't done the right things for this country and they have a lot of control and latitude over the information that goes to companies in Russia," Joyce said. "So I worry about that."
Kaspersky is currently under active FBI counterintelligence investigation, and the Senate Intelligence Committee is probing the nature of its relationship to the Kremlin, calling it an "important national security issue."
The FBI also interviewed at least a dozen employees of the firm in late June, visiting them at their homes on the East and West Coasts to gather more information about how Kaspersky works.
Kaspersky's products are widely used across the US, and officials worry that Russian state actors could exploit Kaspersky's software and gain access to sensitive user data as well as critical infrastructure. Kaspersky has vehemently denied it has ties with any government.
Best Buy will allow customers who are already using Kaspersky products, and who still have active subscriptions, to exchange it for free within the next 45 days, Star Tribune reported. They can also uninstall it themselves or have the Geek Squad do it for free within that window.
Alex McGeorge, the head of threat intelligence at Immunity Inc., told Business Insider in an earlier interview that instead of imposing economic sanctions in response to cyber threats, the US should retaliate against Russia by targeting key players in its cyber industry. The Trump administration's actions, as well as those taken by Best Buy, may do just that.
"The intelligence community has come out and said there's internal evidence saying Kaspersky is not playing fair and can't really be trusted," McGeorge said. "It would send a good message and be a clear statement to Russia if the US government responded in kind and took aim exactly at the Russian cyber industry. That's what a deterrent would look like."
Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA, reiterated the intelligence community's belief of a link between Kaspersky and the Kremlin. "There is a connection between Kaspersky and Russian intelligence, and I'm absolutely certain that Russian intelligence would want to use that connection to their advantage," Morell told CBS last month.
To be sure, Bloomberg obtained internal emails in July which showed that Kaspersky has worked with Russian intelligence, developing products for the FSB, Russia's spy agency, and accompanying agents on raids. The company is also registered with the FSB, but Kaspersky claims it has no connection to the Kremlin or Russian intelligence.
"Kaspersky Lab doesn't have inappropriate ties with any government," the firm told Business Insider last month. The company said no credible evidence has established ties to ties between Kaspersky and the Kremlin, and that it's merely "caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight" and being treated unfairly.