Russia’s Kaspersky has linked Chinese telecom companies to the US FCC’s national security.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday added Russia’s AO Kaspersky Lab, China Telecom (Americas) and China Mobile International to the list of communication equipment and service providers considered a threat to US national security.

The regulator last year named five Chinese companies as the first on the list, including Huawei and ZTE, which became mandatory under a 2019 law. Kaspersky is the first Russian company listed.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the new titles would “protect our networks from threats posed by Chinese and Russian state-backed entities involved in espionage and otherwise seeking to harm US interests.”

U.S. officials have long said that running Kaspersky software could disrupt Moscow’s operations on American networks, and in 2017 banned Kaspersky’s flagship antivirus products from federal networks. Moscow-based Kaspersky has consistently denied being a tool of the Russian government,

In naming Kaspersky, the FCC announcement did not mention President Joe Biden’s recent warning of a possible Russian cyber attack in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine or US sanctions and support for Ukraine.

Kaspersky said in a statement that he was disappointed with the FCC’s decision, arguing that it was “politically motivated.” The move was “unproven and a response to the geopolitical climate rather than a comprehensive assessment of the integrity of Kaspersky’s products and services,” the company said.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said on Friday that the FCC had “misused state power and launched a vicious attack on Chinese telecom operators again without real basis. The United States should immediately end its unreasonable crackdown on Chinese companies.”

“China will take the necessary steps to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies,” it added.

Chinese companies did not immediately comment.

In October, the FCC withdrew U.S. approval for China Telecom (Americas), saying it was “a matter of exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government.” [nL1N2RM1QE]

The FCC cited a previous decision to deny or withdraw the ability of Chinese telecom companies to operate in the United States to add them to their threat list.

The FCC has also withdrawn US approval of China Unicom and Pacific Network and its wholly-owned subsidiary Comnet.

In 2019, the FCC rejected China Mobile’s bid to provide US telecommunications services, citing national security risks.

Inclusion in the “covered list” means that money from the FCC’s $ 8 billion (approximately Rs. 61,020 crore) annual universal service fund cannot be used to purchase or maintain products from companies. The fund provides facilities such as telecommunications and schools, libraries and hospitals for rural, low-income consumers.

The FCC last year identified Heitera Communications, Hangzhou Hickvision Digital Technology and Dahua Technology as security threats.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenwarsell said the agency has worked closely with U.S. national security agencies to update the list and will add additional agencies if necessary.

Thomson Reuters 2022

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