Vendor uproar over China’s demand for IT backdoor

North American technology vendors are reacting to new set by the Chinese government which require manufactures install so-called backdoors on technology they sell to business and government agencies in the country.

The manufacturers said the new rules would entail “intrusive” security tests as well as the disclosure of intellectual property.

Partly in response to revelations about the United States National Security Agency’s surveillance activities on Chinese networks, the Chinese government in May announced it will roll out a new vetting process for IT hardware and software being sold to key industries in the country. The latest set of rules were released late in 2014.

Among the new requirements were that vendors had to turn over the source code of all software and firmware for computing and network equipment to the Chinese government and provide management ports so that the government can monitor and control the equipment, according to a report from the New York Times. The government also wants that 75 per cent of technology products sold to China’s financial sector be “secure and controllable” by 2019.

Industry organizations have protested the rules, according to a report from Ars Technica.

For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce in China, The Information Technology Industry Council and the Telecommunication Industry Association and other groups sent a letter to a Chinese Communist Party committee on cyber security calling for a dialogue. The American group is worried that security issues are being used to displace foreign firms including Cisco, IBM and Microsoft that doing business in China with companies that have strong relations with the government.

The letter warned “an overly broad, opaque, discriminatory approach to cyber security policy” will serve only to isolate Chinese companies and exacerbate cyber security concerns.

Surveillance and cyber espionage has long been a sore point between China and the U.S.

In North America, there have been long-pestering suspicions of cyber espionage activities by Chinese government back groups aimed at North American government agencies and businesses. China on the other hand has used the revelations by Edward Snowden of NSA surveillance program as an opportunity to point a finger on the U.S.’s own snooping activities.

Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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