Tech firms let Russia probe software widely used by U.S. government

    WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Main world know-how suppliers SAP (SAPG.DE), Symantec (SYMC.O) and McAfee have allowed Russian authorities to hunt for vulnerabilities in software program deeply embedded throughout the U.S. authorities, a Reuters investigation has discovered.

    The observe probably jeopardizes the safety of laptop networks in no less than a dozen federal businesses, U.S. lawmakers and safety specialists stated. It entails extra corporations and a broader swath of the federal government than beforehand reported.

    To be able to promote within the Russian market, the tech corporations let a Russian protection company scour the inside workings, or supply code, of a few of their merchandise. Russian authorities say the critiques are essential to detect flaws that could possibly be exploited by hackers. (Graphic:

    However those self same merchandise defend a number of the most delicate areas of the usgovernment, together with the Pentagon, NASA, the State Division, the FBI and the intelligence group, towards hacking by subtle cyber adversaries like Russia.

    Reuters revealed in October that Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE.N) software program often called ArcSight, used to assist safe the Pentagon’s computer systems, had been reviewed by a Russian navy contractor with shut ties to Russia’s safety providers.

    Now, a Reuters evaluate of lots of of U.S. federal procurement paperwork and Russian regulatory information reveals that the potential dangers to the U.S. authorities from Russian supply code critiques are extra widespread.

    Past the Pentagon, ArcSight is utilized in no less than seven different businesses, together with the Workplace of the Director of Nationwide Intelligence and the State Division’s intelligence unit, the evaluate confirmed. Moreover, merchandise made by SAP, Symantec and McAfee and reviewed by Russian authorities are utilized in no less than eight businesses. Some businesses use greater than one of many 4 merchandise. (Graphic:

    McAfee, SAP, Symantec and Micro Focus (MCRO.L), the British agency that now owns ArcSight, all stated that any supply code critiques have been carried out underneath the software program maker’s supervision in safe services the place the code couldn’t be eliminated or altered. The method doesn’t compromise product safety, they stated. Amid rising considerations over the method, Symantec and McAfee not permit such critiques and Micro Focus moved to sharply limit them late final 12 months.

    The Pentagon stated in a beforehand unreported letter ( to Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen that supply code critiques by Russia and China “could help such nations in discovering vulnerabilities in these merchandise.”

    Reuters has not discovered any situations the place a supply code evaluate performed a job in a cyberattack, and a few safety specialists say hackers usually tend to discover different methods to infiltrate community programs.

    However the Pentagon just isn’t alone in expressing concern. Non-public sector cyber specialists, former U.S. safety officers and a few U.S. tech corporations informed Reuters that permitting Russia to evaluate the supply code could expose unknown vulnerabilities that could possibly be used to undermine U.S. community defenses.

    “Even letting individuals take a look at supply code for a minute is extremely harmful,” stated Steve Quane, govt vp for community protection at Development Micro, which sells TippingPoint safety software program to the U.S. navy.

    Frightened about these dangers to the U.S. authorities, Development Micro has refused to permit the Russians to conduct a supply code evaluate of TippingPoint, Quane stated.

    Quane stated prime safety researchers can shortly spot exploitable vulnerabilities simply by inspecting supply code.

    “We all know there are individuals who can do this, as a result of now we have individuals like that who work for us,” he stated.


    Lots of the Russian critiques have occurred since 2014, when U.S.-Russia relations plunged to new lows following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. Western nations have accused Russia of sharply escalating its use of cyber assaults throughout that point, an allegation Moscow denies.

    Some U.S. lawmakers fear supply code critiques could possibly be one more entry level for Moscow to wage cyberattacks.

    “I worry that entry to our safety infrastructure – whether or not or not it’s overt or covert – by adversaries could have already opened the door to dangerous safety vulnerabilities,” Shaheen informed Reuters.

    In its Dec. 7 letter to Shaheen, the Pentagon stated it was “exploring the feasibility” of requiring distributors to reveal after they have allowed international governments to entry supply code. Shaheen had questioned the Pentagon in regards to the observe following the Reuters report on ArcSight, which additionally prompted Micro Focus to say it might limit authorities supply code critiques sooner or later. HPE stated none of its present merchandise have undergone Russian supply code evaluate.

    Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the Home Science, House and Know-how Committee, stated laws to raised safe the federal cybersecurity provide chain was clearly wanted.

    Most U.S. authorities businesses declined to remark when requested whether or not they have been conscious know-how put in inside their networks had been inspected by Russian navy contractors. Others stated safety was of paramount concern however that they may not touch upon the usage of particular software program.

    A Pentagon spokeswoman stated it frequently screens the business know-how it makes use of for safety weaknesses.

    NO PENCILS ALLOWED Tech corporations eager to entry Russia’s giant market are sometimes required to hunt certification for his or her merchandise from Russian businesses, together with the FSB safety service and Russia’s Federal Service for Technical and Export Management (FSTEC), a protection company tasked with countering cyber espionage.

    FSTEC declined to remark and the FSB didn’t reply to requests for remark. The Kremlin referred all inquiries to the FSB and FSTEC.

    FSTEC typically requires corporations to allow a Russian authorities contractor to check the software program’s supply code.

    SAP HANA, a database system, underwent a supply code evaluate as a way to acquire certification in 2016, in accordance with Russian regulatory information. The software program shops and analyzes data for the State Division, Inner Income Service, NASA and the Military.

    An SAP spokeswoman stated any supply code critiques have been carried out in a safe, company-supervised facility the place recording gadgets and even pencils are “are strictly forbidden.”

    “All governments and governmental organizations are handled the identical with no exceptions,” the spokeswoman stated.

    Whereas some corporations have since stopped permitting Russia to evaluate supply code of their merchandise, the identical merchandise typically stay embedded within the U.S. authorities, which may take many years to improve know-how.

    Safety considerations precipitated Symantec to halt all authorities supply code critiques in 2016, the corporate’s chief govt informed Reuters in October. However Symantec Endpoint Safety antivirus software program, which was reviewed by Russia in 2012, stays in use by the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Social Safety Administration, amongst different businesses, in accordance with federal contracting information reviewed by Reuters.

    In an announcement, a Symantec spokeswoman stated the most recent model of Endpoint Safety, launched in late 2016, by no means underwent a supply code evaluate and that the sooner model has obtained quite a few updates since being examined by Russia. The California-based firm stated it had no motive to consider earlier critiques had compromised product safety. Symantec continued to promote the older model by 2017 and can present updates by 2019.

    McAfee additionally introduced final 12 months that it might not permit government-mandated supply code critiques.

    The cyber agency’s Safety Data and Occasion Administration (SIEM) software program was reviewed in 2015 by a Moscow-based authorities contractor, Echelon, on behalf of FSTEC, in accordance with Russian regulatory paperwork. McAfee confirmed this.

    The Treasury Division and Protection Safety Service, a Pentagon company tasked with guarding the navy’s labeled data, proceed to depend on the product to guard their networks, contracting information present.

    McAfee declined to remark, citing buyer confidentiality agreements, however it has beforehand stated the Russian critiques are carried out at company-owned premises in the USA.


    On its web site, Echelon describes itself as an official laboratory of the FSB, FSTEC, and Russia’s protection ministry. Alexey Markov, the president of Echelon, which additionally inspected the supply code for ArcSight, stated U.S. corporations typically initially expressed considerations in regards to the certification course of.

    “Did they’ve any? Completely!!” Markov wrote in an e-mail.

    ”The much less the individual making the choice understands about programming, the extra paranoia they’ve. Nonetheless, within the means of clarifying the small print of performing the certification process, the hazards and dangers are smoothed out.”

    Markov stated his staff all the time informs tech corporations earlier than handing over any found vulnerabilities to Russian authorities, permitting the companies to repair the detected flaw. The supply code critiques of merchandise “considerably improves their security,” he stated.

    Chris Inglis, the previous deputy director of the Nationwide Safety Company, the USA’ premier digital spy company, disagrees.

    “While you’re sitting on the desk with card sharks, you’ll be able to’t belief anybody,” he stated. “I wouldn’t present anyone the code.”


    Pentagon letter to Senator Jeanne Shaheen (

    Graphic on U.S. authorities cybersecurity instruments scrutinized by Russians

    Graphic on supply code evaluate course of


    Reporting by Dustin Volz and Joel Schectman in Washington and Jack Stubbs in Moscow.; Enhancing by Jonathan Weber and Ross Colvin

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