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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
56 mins ago - Technology

How the automation economy can turn human workers into robots

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than outright destroying jobs, automation is changing employment in ways that will weigh on workers.

The big picture: Right now, we should be less worried about robots taking human jobs than people in low-skilled positions being forced to work like robots.

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

13 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."