Israeli spies observed Russian government hackers in real time as they scoured computers around the world for the codenames of US intelligence programs, The New York Times reported Tuesday night.
The Russian intrusion detected more than two years ago used anti-virus software manufactured by the Russian firm Kaspersky Lab as an ad hoc global search tool, the Times said, quoting current and former government officials.
The software is used by 400 million people around the world, including by officials at some two dozen American government agencies, the Times reported.
Israeli intelligence had hacked into the Kaspersky network and upon detecting the Russian intrusion, alerted the United States. This led to a decision last month for Kaspersky software to be removed from US government computers, the Times said.
It is known that Russian hackers stole classified documents from a National Security Agency employee who had stored them on his home computer which featured Kaspersky antivirus software, the paper said.
It said that it is not yet publicly known what other secrets the Russians may have obtained from US government agencies by using Kaspersky software as "a sort of Google search for sensitive information."
The Times said Kaspersky Lab denied any knowledge of or involvement in the Russian hacking.