W.H. cybersecurity coordinator warns against using Kaspersky Lab software

WASHINGTON -- Rob Joyce, the Trump administration's cybersecurity coordinator, said Tuesday the U.S. is lacking 300,000 cybersecurity experts needed to defend the country. 

He also had a warning for the public about using software from Kaspersky Lab. U.S. officials believe the company has ties to the Kremlin -- and the federal government has vowed not to use its products. 

CBS News has confirmed that FBI officials have met with private industry representatives to relay concerns about Kaspersky Lab, which is a Moscow-based cybersecurity company with suspected ties to Russian intelligence.

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Rob Joyce

CBS News

FBI agents have also interviewed Kaspersky employees working in the U.S.

"I don't use Kaspersky Lab products," Joyce told CBS News' Jeff Pegues Tuesday in an exclusive interview.

He is also warning consumers against using the company's popular anti-virus software.

"Would you advise your family, your parents to use it?" Pegues asked.

"I would not," Joyce replied. "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. So I worry about that."

"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," said Michael Morell, a former deputy director of the CIA.

The U.S. government already prohibits its use, but local and state governments make extensive use of the Russian software. In fact, there are more than 400 million users worldwide.

The fear is Kaspersky's anti-virus software, which is supposed to protect users from malicious activity, could actually provide Russian intelligence with valuable information.

And as a Russian certificate shows, the company is registered with the FSB, one of Russia's intelligence agencies.

Eugene Kaspersky, the company's founder, once served in Russia's Ministry of Defense and is a graduate of a computer school tied to Russian intelligence.

The company denies the accusations, calling them "false allegations." A spokesperson said in an email that "the company has never helped nor will it help, any government in the world."

U.S. officials dismiss the denials, and continue to warn about the software.

"As cyber czar do you think more should be done to get the word out to the public not to use it?" Pegues asked Joyce.

"I think they should look at the decisions the government is making, and then make their own decisions," he said.

The FBI says it regularly meets with private sector organizations to share security concerns but it doesn't tell companies what business decisions to make. Kaspersky, meanwhile, is preparing a free version of its software.