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US sanctions 12 Kaspersky Lab leaders 

FILE - A view of the headquarters of Kaspersky Lab, Russia's leading antivirus software development company, in Moscow, Oct. 25, 2017.
FILE - A view of the headquarters of Kaspersky Lab, Russia's leading antivirus software development company, in Moscow, Oct. 25, 2017.

The United States sanctioned 12 people Friday in executive and leadership positions at the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, a major international vendor of antivirus software.

The Treasury Department’s action followed an announcement Thursday by the Commerce Department banning the Moscow-based company from selling, or even updating, its antivirus software in the U.S. after July 20, 2024, based on national security concerns.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) cited the risk of Russian cyberattacks stemming from Kaspersky software. The company says on its website that it operates in 200 countries and territories and has 270,000 corporate clients.

“Today’s action against the leadership of Kaspersky Lab underscores our commitment to ensure the integrity of our cyber domain and to protect our citizens against malicious cyber threats,” said Brian E. Nelson, undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence .

“The United States will take action where necessary to hold accountable those who would seek to facilitate or otherwise enable these activities,” he added.

A Commerce Department investigation found that Kaspersky’s "continued operations in the United States presented a national security risk due to the Russian government's offensive cyber capabilities and capacity to influence or direct Kaspersky's operations," the agency said in a statement.

Furthermore, Kaspersky Lab, Kaspersky Group (Russia) and Kaspersky Labs Limited (United Kingdom) were placed on a trade restriction list by the Commerce Department for their collaboration with the Russian military and intelligence agencies in support of the goals of the Russian government in cyberspace.

Kaspersky denied that it is a security threat and said Friday that the Commerce Department had based its decision on “geopolitical climate and theoretical concerns.”

In 2017, the Homeland Security Department mandated that federal executive branch departments and agencies refrain from using Kaspersky Lab-branded services and products in their information systems. The Kaspersky antivirus products provide unlimited access to files on computers with the installed software. These risks can open the door to cybersecurity exploits.

All the sanctioned individuals' property and interests in property that are in the country, under the ownership of American citizens, or under their control are blocked because of Friday’s action and need to be reported to OFAC.

Moreover, any entities that are 50% or more owned, directly or indirectly, by one or more blocked individuals, individually or collectively, are likewise blocked.

The Treasury Department declined to provide further comment on the decision in response to an email request from VOA.

The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to VOA’s phone and email request about Thursday’s executive order.

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