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Eugene Kaspersky. Photo: Adrian Bretscher/Getty Images for Kaspersky Lab

Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab was instrumental in helping capture Hal Martin, a former intelligence subcontractor currently on trial for hoarding classified data at his home, reports Kim Zetter at Politico.

Why it matters: It's a sympathetic twist for beleaguered Kaspersky Lab. U.S. lawmakers regularly accuse the antivirus firm of assisting Russian spies stealing classified intelligence data, and the Department of Homeland Security and Congress separately banned Kaspersky products from federal systems for security concerns.

Details: According to Politico, just half an hour before hackers known as the Shadow Brokers offered to auction off NSA hacking tools, a Twitter account tied to Martin sent cryptic messages to two Kaspersky Lab researchers. The messages led the Kaspersky employees to contact the NSA.

  • Two direct messages from that Twitter account were referenced (sans recipients) in court documents last week — an offer to talk to "Yevgeny," taken to mean Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky; and a note that the "shelf life" of what they had to talk about was only "three weeks," which, given the Shadow Brokers' penchant for leaking documents, may have implied a connection to that case.
  • Martin is not currently believed to have been involved in the Shadow Brokers incident. But during the investigation into the Shadow Brokers, investigators found a massive trove of classified data on Martin's home computer — the largest collection of improperly removed NSA data in history.

Kaspersky Antivirus, according to media reports, may have separately been wittingly or unwittingly involved in incidents of Russian spies stealing classified data. The virus scan tool was allegedly used to search for classified information in addition to viruses — which Kaspersky denies.

  • If true, that could mean an active decision by Kaspersky to steal U.S. secrets. It could also mean that spies compromised Kaspersky infrastructure without the company's knowledge.

Go deeper

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Congress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

The walls close in on Trump

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

oving crates outside Rep. Elise Stefanik's old office Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.