Kaspersky Hearing Delayed by Tax Retreat, No New Date

 (Credit: DVIDS / Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathaniel Moger)

(Credit: DVIDS / Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathaniel Moger)

A sure-to-be-controversial congressional hearing featuring the head of a major Russian cybersecurity firm as a star witness was delayed because of the Republicans' tax reform retreat and no new date for the hearing has been set, a congressional staffer told Code and Dagger.

Eugene Kaspersky, founder of the Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs, was invited (PDF) on Sept. 14 to appear before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on Sept. 27 to defend his firm, which the U.S. government has accused of being closely linked to Russian intelligence. The day before the invitation, the Department of Homeland Security directed all federal agencies to remove Kaspersky products from their systems.

"The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security," the DHS said.

Related: Senator Teases, But Doesn't Reveal Classified Intel on Russian Cyber Firm

Eugene Kaspersky vocally defended his company, offered to show the U.S. government his products' source code and quickly accepted the invitation. In comments reported by the Russian news service TASS today, he said he already got his U.S. visa for the trip.

A week ago, however, the hearing was canceled. At the time no reason was given beyond a reported scheduling issue, but today the House committee's spokesperson, Thea McDonald, told Code and Dagger it was because the hearing came on the same day as the planned GOP tax reform retreat Wednesday. McDonald said no new date for the hearing has been decided.

In the meantime, Kaspersky continued to defend his firm at a local cyber security forum.

"I’m more than sure that they know that we cannot do that [spy for the Russian government]. One thousand people work for the company, but this does not mean that some programmers wearing dirty sweatshirts sit in basements and each of them writes a part of a code. These are teams that do entire chunks of projects, and it is impossible to do something secretly here," Kaspersky said today, according to TASS.

After news of the U.S. government's suspicions about Kaspersky's firm surfaced this summer, a former senior U.S. official told Code and Dagger he was "shocked! shocked!" at the allegations that Kaspersky was working with the Russian government. But the official noted that American cybersecurity companies cooperate from time to time with the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies as well.

"The question is, under what circumstances?" he said then.

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