America restricts Chinese tech purchases citing cyber-espionage concerns

The US government has passed a law which includes the provision to restrict government tech purchases from China

by The Commentator on 27 March 2013 22:30

Soft-on-cyber-crime

The latest US appropriations bill, signed into law just this week, includes a provision that requires key government departments to conduct formal risk assesments of cyber-espionage before purchasing technology from China.

The move is likely to raise tensions between Washington and Beijing and America gives one of the clearest signs in recent times that it is concerned with espionage from the Asian giant.

The Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, NASA, and the NSF will now have to perform a formal assessment of risk of cyber-espionage before purchasing computer systems and other IT equipment.

A clause in the bill states that the assessment must specifically analyse — with the assistance of the FBI — any "such system being produced, manufactured or assembled by one or more entities that are owned, directed or subsidised" by the People's Republic of China to determine if the purchase is "in the national interest of the United States."

The provision comes shortly after a spate of attacks against US media outlets and government agencies. 

The attacks were apparently traced to a building in Shanghai housing the People's Liberation Army Unit 61398 which is involved in cyber-espionage. The Chinese government denied the claims.

Security experts have long noted the state use of telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE, claiming that they contain security backdoors.

The new provision doesn't prevent US government agencies from using equipment sourced from these companies, but it will make purchasing IT systems from them more cumbersome.

In October last year the White House ordered an investigation into Huawei products which suggested that security vulnerabilities posed a greater threat than any links between the firm and the Chinese government.

Huawei spokesman Bill Plummer said: "Huawei is not familiar with the review, but we are not surprised to hear that the White House has concluded there is no evidence of any Huawei involvement with any espionage or other non-commercial activities.

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