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Lenovo Under U.S. Probe for Spying

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the seekrit-agent-man dept.

327

BigControversy writes "The DailyTech has a report indicating that Lenovo, the giant Chinese PC manufacturer, is under a probe by the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission (USCC) for possible bugging. Apparently, the government has ordered 16,000 PCs from Lenovo but is now requesting that Lenovo be investigated by intelligence agencies. The fear is of foreign intelligence applying pressure to Lenovo to equip its PCs so that the U.S. can be spied on." From the article: "Despite the probe, Lenovo says that its international business, especially those that deal with the US, follow strictly laid out government regulations and rules. Lenovo also claims that even after purchasing IBM's PC division, its international business has not been affected negatively. Interestingly, in an interview with the BBC, Lenovo mentioned that an open investigation or probe may negatively affect the way that the company deals with future government contracts or bids." There just has to be better uses of our intelligence community's time.

cancel ×

327 comments

Disagree on the last comment (5, Insightful)

JMUChrisF (188300) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026140)

Isn't this the perfect use of our intelligence community? I think this is a very valid threat from a community like China who has been known to have spies in the US at all times. (Not saying we don't spy back, but that's the game!).

A lot of federal agencies have policies about using foreign hardware/software for reasons just like this. Go USA!

Re:Disagree on the last comment (0, Offtopic)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026162)

Mod Parent up. It's a vaild point and no hint of a TROLL. Just some mod abusing power.

Mod Parent up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026351)

Mod Parent up. It's a vaild point and no hint of a TROLL. Just some mod abusing power.

Re:Disagree on the last comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026265)

Virtually all laptop manufacturing is already off-shore. If you're worried about foreign spying, you've already lost the war. This "investigation" is a complete waste of time.

Re:Disagree on the last comment (4, Insightful)

Mattcelt (454751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026267)

Absolutely! This is what the counterintelligence agencies DO!

Seriously, who would be surprised if a Chinese company (remember the Chinese? They're still Communists!!) was encouraged to spy on U.S. Government agencies? To think otherwise is, IMO, incredibly naïve.

Personally, I think Lenovo ought to be barred from selling hardware to the U.S. Government altogether. It's simply not worth the security risk.

Of course Lenovo has back-doors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026330)

If they're pre-installed with Windows, of course they have back doors. Probably most are unintentional bugs; but possibly one not-so-unintentional bug for every country where Microsoft has a development office.

The problem with closed-source is that how would the customer even find them.

I'm shocked that the Government will buy any closed-source software from companies with employees in other countries.

Re:Disagree on the last comment (2, Informative)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026280)

Interesting point this. If these PCs were ordered from Dell which Levono purchased and which I'd reason was in part a basis for this deal, would an investigation have been ordered.

IMHO, it is good practice to have standing procedures to investigate all contracts/purchases, be them government, business or personal. And it would be extremely bad procedure for a foreign government to attempt such a poor spying procedure, but no harm in checking, which I doubt would be very hard.

But I think this is a very valid threat from a community like China who has been known to have spies in the US at all times. Well, the same is true of almost all countries I'm sure. And I'd also hazard a guess that social networking, for example having an operative in place for years only to pop in a USB key (or even manually scribe) and get what they want, is a much greater threat.

I would disagree with use use of 'threat from a community like China' in your statement: China is booming because of free trade, they have a declining population (young people, infact the population is projected to increase for a while as life expectancy from the incumbant increases), and virtually everything to lose from any kind of hostile activity - its not as if a communist ideal exists in China today to peddle to the rest of the world.

The story seems a bit of a non-entity. US government check out foreign contractor, probably a few man hours work. More important are the day-to-day checks. At least this doesn't seem to be a farce as the blocked Dubai-funded purchase of ports were.

Re:Disagree on the last comment (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026447)

they have a declining population

Really? Or is it just a declining population growth rate? I'd be very surprised if they had managed to have a negative population growth rate.

Declining population (2, Interesting)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026468)

China:1,306,313,813
United States: 298,290,000
Get back to me when China doesn't outnumber the United States 4 to 1.

But seriously, what effect does declining population have on either China's stability or beligerence.

Also, what does it say when successive generations are viewed not as hope for the future but a threat to it?

Re:Disagree on the last comment (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026286)

In light of all the spying that we did against the USSR (xerox copy machines, sabatoged oil line controls leading to an explosion, etc) and China (using Nauru's embassy, splices in the telecom, etc.) , we would be insane to not check the equipment. What amazes me is that over the last 5 years, our gov. has outsourced so many critical areas to nations that are at best neutral, and more likely future enemies.

Everyone has spies here. (2, Insightful)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026298)

Hell, no doubt even Canada has a few.

Re:Disagree on the last comment (1)

Psx29 (538840) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026337)

I concur. This is exactly what those spy agencies _should_ be doing and I for one feel good they are actually doing something right instead of spying on individual US citizens for a change.

This is a good argument for open source hardware. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026363)

Like it or not, we totally depend on other countries. I used to work on a military system that used tubes (valves for you brits). The tubes were no longer made in the west. The only source of the tubes was the USSR (with whom we would have been at war, if there was a war). If the third world war had lasted more than a month, we would have had to order spare parts from the Russians.

Mil Spec used to require second source suppliers for everything. That means every chip, resistor and capacitor. To do that now would require that several companies have the complete design of everything down to the last square mm of silicon. Such a policy would effectively prevent spying devices because many people would be able to examine the design. The same reason that open source is safer than Windows is the same reason that hardware designs should be open sourced (or at least second sourced).

BTW. You are absolutely right. Even friendly countries spy on each other. There was a story going around a while ago about an embassy had to be totally torn down because the local workers who built it had planted many microphones in it.

dont (1)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026403)

dont hate the player, hate the game

Re:Disagree on the last comment (2, Insightful)

Confused (34234) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026423)


A lot of federal agencies have policies about using foreign hardware/software for reasons just like this. Go USA!


Oh yes, while the notebooks carried the IBM lable, they were good american products, while now they're evil chinese. Very interesting approach, considering that the computers were built all the time in the same factory in China.

I guess, if you'd have to buy american-only computers, you won't be able to purchase from Dell, IBM, HP, Toshiba, Sun and most other brands.

Re:Disagree on the last comment (1)

gnarlin (696263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026472)

Now that you mention it, I would really like to know if it is at all possible to purchase a fully "Made in the USA" computer (desktop or laptop)? Do you know of any?

Re:Disagree on the last comment (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026480)

Actually, many of the IBM's pc were not made in China. Some assemblage went on there, but the design and the chip man. occured in the USA and Europe. Now, much of that has been moved to China.

Keep in mind, that China, like USA, will go to great lengths to spy on others. We both do it against our own citizens as well as against other nations. USA really does need to check the equipment.

Re:Disagree on the last comment (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026535)

/ It looks like someone is trying   \
| to spy on you. Would you like to? |
| *Save your changes and exit now.  |
| *Trace the attackers IP.          |
\ *Turn off these warnings.         /
   /
__/
olo
|||
\_/

So let me get this straight.. (3, Insightful)

trazom28 (134909) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026143)

We have a crapload of good PC Manufacturers here in the states, and our government instead orders 16,000 PCs from a Chinese manufacturer?

Re:So let me get this straight.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026161)

Please list for me the PC's I can buy whose parts do not come from China or Taiwan.

Re:So let me get this straight.. (2, Interesting)

TheBogie (941620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026195)

It's not that the parts come from China, it's that now the responsibility for keeping spyware type stuff off of the computer is China's. If they bought their computers from a domestic supplier, there would be at least one other entity checking these computers. Since the entire box now comes from China, it is necessary for the intelligence community to do the checking. This makes a lot of sense to me.

Re:So let me get this straight.. (2, Informative)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026294)

If you're looking for Blade Servers:

Diversified Technology, Inc. [dtims.com] Everything is designed and manufactured in-house. They even do custom projects.

Re:So let me get this straight.. (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026172)

The factories were already in China when the Thinkpad division was owned by IBM.

Re:So let me get this straight.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026204)

Many of the components are already being produced in China or Taiwan anyway. The reality is that very few components in computers are made on US shores today. Its a lucky dip in many cases where the CPU in your system has come from. For example read the FAQ on the intel web page regarding where products are being produced and intel is one of the larger computer parts producers.

Try and find a computer not made in China (4, Insightful)

OS24Ever (245667) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026234)

Dell, HP, IBM, Apple, and many, many others are most of the time built right next to each other in China. I'd be willing to bet there isn't a single computer where every piece in it is made in the USA, or a US Friendly country (friendly by my definition = NATO)

Re:So let me get this straight.. (1)

pieinthesky (310645) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026245)

"free trade! capitalism! competition!"

...but only when it benefits me.

Re:So let me get this straight.. (0, Offtopic)

a_nonamiss (743253) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026390)

It's OK, just as long as the PC's aren't made in any country with "Arab" in the name...

Re:So let me get this straight.. (0, Offtopic)

trazom28 (134909) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026485)

It's OK, just as long as the PC's aren't made in any country with "Arab" in the name...


Way to be a racist! Go you!

Translation: You're an asshat :)

Re:So let me get this straight.. (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026411)

We have a crapload of good PC Manufacturers here in the states, and our government instead orders 16,000 PCs from a Chinese manufacturer?

Well, first of all, we don't - outsourcing ended US PC manufacturing a long time ago. Even if it didn't, outsourcing of mobo's, hard drives, and most other components would make sure if there was some sort of monitoring agent put in there, you wouldn't know it.

On another tack, it seems it's always the right wing who bitch about high taxes and 'guvmint wastin' our money' that also bitch about our security being broken by having to use all of these foreign boxes. The bottom line is that, in this global economy, if you want control, you pay for it.

I guess my overall feeling is that the right wing free traders made this bed. They shouldn't whine about having to lie in it.

Summary correction. (2, Funny)

tpgp (48001) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026149)

The fear is of foreign intelligence applying pressure to Lenovo to equip its PCs so that the U.S. can be spied on."

Should read:

The fear is of the Chinese Trade Gap [csmonitor.com] widening further

Fixed! (Its a joke for the humour impaired)

Re:Summary correction. (1)

Mathiasdm (803983) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026238)

Its a joke for the humour impaired

Why would you make a joke for the humor impaired? //Yes, this is a joke as well.

If the US Govt is so worried about it... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026153)

...why did they order the PCs from China in the first place? Didn't they know that their attempt to save a buck might end up in future unforeseen costs?

Next time, but from US manufacturers! Let this be a lesson learned.

Re:If the US Govt is so worried about it... (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026163)

I don't think they would save a buck buying from Lenovo, if they're still carrying the IBM price range. If they went with eMachines, on the other hand..

Re:If the US Govt is so worried about it... (1)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026196)

Probably because of the long term contracts the Gov has had with IBM for decades (with an S), Lenovo makes them for IBM and IBM than sells them to the Gov.

Re:If the US Govt is so worried about it... (2)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026314)

...why did they order the PCs from China in the first place? Didn't they know that their attempt to save a buck might end up in future unforeseen costs?

So that they can start planting the seeds of war with China. What better way to recoup all the money that we owe them but to go to war w/them for years so we don't have to pay it back?!

Re:If the US Govt is so worried about it... (1)

Xichekolas (908635) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026388)

This is how our government works... first you save 12 cents here and then you spend $12 Billion on something else... kind of like cutting a few million from the Peace Corps in the name of fiscal responsibilty and then asking for another $80 billion for Iraq... I can't help but wonder what the world would be like if we gave $80 billion to the Peace Corps... Yeah, probably just get wasted on hippy love projects anyway... w00t JDAMs!

Re:If the US Govt is so worried about it... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026490)

Yeah, probably just get wasted on hippy love projects anyway...

Unfortunately, most hippy love projects lead to jealousy-induced breakups and infighting.

Re:If the US Govt is so worried about it... (1)

Xichekolas (908635) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026549)

Sounds like the Democratic Party!

of course they're used for spying (1)

Dishwasha (125561) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026156)

They must have pre-loaded them with Microsoft Windows.

I think not. (3, Insightful)

biggyfred (754376) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026158)

Better use of intelligence time? This should be taken damned seriously. Have a look at PROMIS [google.com] and tell me this is a benign subject..

MicroSoft (5, Insightful)

bombadillo (706765) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026159)

This isn't much different than the Chineese Governments fear of backdoors placed in M.S. Windows by U.S intellegence. The shoe is on the other foot now.

Re:MicroSoft (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026269)

I love it when perfectly valid comments get marked 'troll.' :-/

Re:MicroSoft (2, Informative)

dominator (61418) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026370)

And Microsoft gave into the Chinese government's demands and released their source code so that it could be audited. This is just the cost of doing business with powerful governments with large budgets. Lenovo should, like Microsoft, suck it up, or lose the US government's business. Turnabout is fair play, after all...

Re:MicroSoft (1)

yellekc (819322) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026478)

Don't worry, the Chinese got that covered. The US intellegence community would be mighty confused and overwhelmed when the backdoor they put on a 100 copies of windows ends up being installed on half a million PCs.

Supposition and Speculation (2, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026168)

The supposed problem presented by the USCC is that the 16,000 computers are being built by a Chinese-mainland company. The USCC argues that a foreign intelligence like that of the Communist Party of China (CPC) can use its power to get Lenovo to equip its machines with espionage devices. Lenovo has strongly declined that it is involved in any such activities.

On the one hand, they have a point: it would be very easy for the Chinese government to "encourage" Lenovo to plant things in these machines to allow them to spy on the US. On the other hand, given the profusion of malware, keyloggers, Trojans, and such, the Chinese government could already be spying on the US without having to go to such extraordinary lengths. Frankly, it's too obvious to be credible.

Re:Supposition and Speculation (1)

George Beech (870844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026277)

Frankly, it's too obvious to be credible.
That is the attitude that makes something done in this manner work oh so well.

Better use? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026177)

How do you figure? Isn't this what they should *actually* be doing, so we make rational decisions instead of using kneejerk racisim to eliminate foreign business? They should investigate, so we can base decisions on facts for a change.

Re:Better use? (0, Troll)

externarmor (964727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026540)

Your are so right. A country that is mostly white should never defend itself from a country that is mostly people with skin color. It was okay to defend ourselves from the Soviet Union because they were mostly white. It is kneejerk racism to protect ourselves from China because they are Asians.

TV, and DVD Players May Listen Too! (3, Interesting)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026179)

Hmmm, with so many goods coming from China these days, your TV and DVD player may be spying on you too, or in the near future, especially with the growth of home networks. Seriously, trying to buy any kind of electronics that don't come from China is getting harder and harder. Do it yourselfers aren't much safer, afterall, would anyone notice if the network chip on that Chinese made motherboard have some extra functionality? My, isn't paranoia fun?

Not Surprised (2, Insightful)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026187)

They spy on us, and we spy on them. Nothing new.

The only thing is now they're worried that the Chinese gov got a PC supplier to fiddle with their product. Maybe not all, just 1 out of 100 or something.

Do I think China did this? No.

But it's pretty much the job of intelligence agencies to be paranoid.

Re:Not Surprised (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026327)

If anyone has attended a presentation by Lenovo, they are VERY big into the Trusted Platform Module (TPM). The chip they use is supposedly unerasable, at least outside the factory anyway. So no flashes are possible. The only way they say they can change the config is by replacing the actual chip.

And of course, what's available from that chip varies depending on the features you buy. They could make i

At any rate, it's entirely plausible that they could put a backdoor into the TPM chip could have a backdoor in it that the Chinese could use to spy on the government and even US companies. Very likely could be undetectable. Or if it was detected, not much could be done about it short of junking the laptop.

Sure, leakage of this could cause Lenovo to lose business. The whole point is that it's kept on the downlow, because is a source is exposed, it'll dry up.

Not only does it make business sense to keep it quiet, it'll also lose the Chinese gov't a potentially lucrative source of intelligence.

If you need real security (2, Interesting)

Rhys (96510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026190)

And you didn't install the OS yourself from something "known good" (or at least believed good, like a generic windows install CD bought at best buy or your other favorite local rip-off shop) you're an idiot.

Beyond that, by talking about it, you've given "the enemy" information on how your IT practices work: you pretty obviously don't use ghost or any similar sort of mass deployment software. (yes, I realize that for laptops with all their custom crap it doesn't work as well. Still, a place I worked as a summer intern used to do it back in the 96-2000 era on IBM thinkpads, so...)

Security by obscurity? Sure. That is all your password is, after all too, it (sec by obs) isn't strictly a bad thing.

Re:If you need real security (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026273)

I believe the expected "bug" would be hardware, not software.

Re:If you need real security (4, Interesting)

chill (34294) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026359)

And you didn't install the OS yourself from something "known good" (or at least believed good, like a generic windows install CD bought at best buy or your other favorite local rip-off shop) you're an idiot.

Irrelevant.

BIOS has gotten to the point [phoenix.com] that it can "phone home" before you even get to the OS. A small modification to hardware or firmware can make it so the system inserts key packets into the network stream, sending covert messages out to the equivalent of electronic "dead drops".

We aren't talking about always-on-a-secure-network PCs, but laptops that'll be jacked into hotels, Starbucks and other insecure networks at some point.

Unless you jack those machines in behind a traffic analyzer/router that captures every packet, then analyze *each* packet that goes out of the machine, you'll never be 100% sure the hardware isn't trojaned.

Ping is nice and innocuous. Are you sure you know what that 56-byte payload contains [wfu.edu] ? Have you ever looked? What about DNS requests? They happen ALL the time. Did you analyze each one to make sure they aren't requesting TXT-records that get forwarded over to a Chinese-owned server in the U.S.?

  -Charles

Re:If you need real security (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026432)

Security by obscurity? Sure. That is all your password is, after all too, it (sec by obs) isn't strictly a bad thing.

The difference between a secret password and a "secret" IT practice is that the password can be changed easily if the secret is revealed. Bruce Schneier calls this "brittle" secrets vs. resilient secrets, e.g. a lock with a key or combination (which can be changed) vs. the location of a secret door (which would be difficuilt to relocate).

Also, don't overlook the possibility that potential "bugs" in computers could be the more traditional hardware listening devices instead of/in addition to spyware.

Re:If you need real security (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026436)

Security by obscurity? Sure. That is all your password is, after all too, it (sec by obs) isn't strictly a bad thing.


Security by obscurity isn't about existing secrets (hey, if you encrypt something, then you also obscure the contents and hope for security).
Security by obscurity means: We don't tell anyone how it works, so they will have a hard time figuring that out first until they can get in. Security by obscurity means: Putting the key under the doormat, so no one knows where the secret (the actual unique design of the key) is, and don't tell anyone that this key fits to the backdoor, not the front door.
Security by obscurity is defeated by lifting the obscurity, not by revealing the secrets.

Re:If you need real security (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026521)

you pretty obviously don't use ghost or any similar sort of mass deployment software

Agreed. Maybe Roadhouse or any other Patrick Swayze film, but not Ghost.

I doubt it (5, Insightful)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026205)

Any built-in addition features in the hardware, the bios or
even the preinstalled operating system would be immediately
detected and destroy the entire PC business of Lenovo abroad.

Re:I doubt it (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026296)

Not nessicarily,

Not too long ago, Boeing sold a couple 747's to the Chinese government to be used for government officials. The Chinese found out they were loaded with listening devices. They bought a couple Airbuses for the Chinese officials instead, but it didn't effect the sale of Boeing planes to airlines and such that aren't worried about spying.

This makes perfect sense (2, Funny)

JamesD_UK (721413) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026206)

After all, it'd be so easy to find a PC that didn't have any components made in China. Where's the sarcasm tag? :-)

US and Due Dilligence... WHA???? (1)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026207)

About time we started puting some of that security-conciousness into effect. Honestly, I think any foreign manufacuterer of devices with data logging capability should be HIGHLY suspect from the get-go.

Better use of time? (1)

Klaruz (734) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026208)

While there's a good chance this probe will find nothing, espionage is still alive and well. The world as not nearly as peaceful as we'd like to think it is. Have you ever seen xray photos of electronics with bugs embeded in them? They do exist.

Just a stunt (2, Insightful)

orzetto (545509) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026213)

The USCC is an organ of the US Congress. These are the members [uscc.gov] . If I understand correctly, they are all politicians. Chinese do things cheaper than Americans, American politicians whine so they look like they are against outsourcing, then they buy happily.

Seriously, bugging thousands of PCs to get intelligence? Give me a break. Intelligence is not just about getting information, it is also about not getting caught and leaving no evidence. Thousands of PCs trying to send coded messages to Beijing would ring a bell even at the Department of Homeland Security. It's much simpler and safer to buy or blackmail a politician or an employee to provide information.

Re:Just a stunt (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026544)

You aren't thinking like an intelligence agency. There are subtle ways that hardware can be modified that are hard to detect. Many of these techniques have been known for decades. They can be designed to be deniable. You don't have to collect information from all of the PCs, just the ones that have been installed in interesting places.

Why doe there "There just has to be better uses".. (1)

MajorDick (735308) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026226)

There just has to be better uses of our intelligence .
WHY ???
You dont think the Chineese would do this ?
Does anyone remeber our com plane and its pilots ?
The Chineese wouldnt even think twice about doing something like this. They would do it hands down.
Shit WE would do it, and we did, look at all the games we played with the russians, bugged photocopiers for example.
You seem like a plant , or a way to trusting soul to be on slashdot

Hilarious (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026242)

After basically ignoring the fact that Hughes transferred critical missile technology to China, NOW the government is worried about a few PC's used to spy on us?

All the Chinese have to do is pony up a few bucks to any greedy US corporation and they can get the data much easier!

Re:Hilarious (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026263)

The Hughes thing had approval from the President.

Not the best direction... (1)

MECC (8478) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026250)

I'm surprised that more foreign goverments aren't calling for similar investigations of US-based suppliers of IT resources to other goverments. This move, even if justified, seems to take things in a bad direction for all.

Anyway, wouldn't outsorcing to other countries have some similar exposures?

What goes around could come around . . . (1)

fajoli (181454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026260)

Given the concern expressed by the US in starting this investigation, should the Chinese government be as concerned with US software? What would be the reprecussions of the Chinese government investigating US software companies for possible spying?

Business as usual (0)

Inkey$ (115300) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026264)

What's wrong with using our intelligence community for making sure that our intelligence community is secure? Counter-surveillance isn't exactly a non-traditional role for an intelligence service.

What kind of probe? (0, Offtopic)

fusto99 (939313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026275)

I wonder if this probe is anything like the one Cartman got. I would be suspicious if a giant satellite pops out of someone's @$$.

There is a very good word for this phenomena: (4, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026301)

Xenophobia.

I have nothing further to add, because that word sums it all up. While there are valid threats against the USA and in the intelligence community there are measures to tap into restricted data, they are NOT going to mess with PCs for fuck's sake! If someone has high security requirements that entity is not going to buy from a consumer level shop ANYWAY.

Geez.

part of the WONWAP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026424)


this is part of the recent war on non-white american people

black, hispanic, islamic, basically if you are not white and Christian and have anything to do with USA you will be a suspect

of course if USA upset the Chinese too much they might just have to dump some of those US bonds they hold, if you think the US economy is in the toilet now wait till the Chinese dump their holdings, you really aint seen nothing yet

Let's receive sweet buttsex from our goverments... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026308)

Your goverment spends your taxmoney on PC's from a evil-communist-chinese company instead from a probably-little-more-expensive US company and now your goverment spend again your taxmoney to investigate if that chinese company can really be trusted?

I think that is even more funny than that BS our (german) goverment is doing... (taxation of annuity... cuttung annuity by 50% if you can't afford children... blablabla...)

Thank you, Slashdot! This really made my day!

Paranoia is healthy (1)

ClayDowling (629804) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026309)

Look, it's likely that the Chinese really are out to get us. Infiltration through industrial means is a common, time honored practice. Any good patriot would be happy to do a little service for his government, especially if there isn't a lot of chance of getting caught. A modified wifi driver would be pretty easy to insert, say one that would transmit key data when it received a certain signal, and otherwise remained inert.

That is one interesting article summary by OP (2, Insightful)

gorbachev (512743) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026313)

Levono is NOT being investigated for spying or bugging the computers sold to the US Government.

The US Government is basically doing a security check on the computers they ordered to make sure there's nothing extra on those computers.

Someone got their panties all in a wad is trying to score some polipoints by being patriotic.

There really is smoke without a fire. This proves it.

Let's go!! (0, Troll)

protomala (551662) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026319)

Nice doing! Now we all shold start investigations about US companies like Dell, HP and Microsoft, because the government of George "I can spy without judicial order" Bush can pressure them to spy on us (you know, us! that small part know by people as "the rest").

Have they found any thing (1)

swestcott (44407) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026320)

I could be way off here but would they order an evestigation if they had not found somting unusal in the newly orderd systems

Then Cisco/Microsoft should be probed (1)

wanops (653087) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026329)

If same logic applies, it would be a good chance for China to boost Huawei and its own WLAN standards

"PC comes pre-loaded with spyware" (2, Funny)

peter303 (12292) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026331)

Though Windows/IE takes less than an hour on average to become infected with spyware after connecting to the Net, Lenevo saves you the trouble by pre-loading it.

(A joke, not a troll)

There is precident (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026332)

Ok, so it's not spying. But the explosion could be detected from orbit. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4394002 [msn.com]

This crap pisses me off... (4, Insightful)

sirwired (27582) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026335)

First off, they aren't under a "probe" for possible spying, despite what the article says. A "probe" would imply that somebody has reason to believe there is actually spying going on. Instead, this is a stupid "investigation" to ensure that there isn't, despite a complete lack of evidence saying there is. This is simple xenophobia, nothing more.

Do the geniuses that ordered this "probe" realize that the vast majority of components in a modern computer come from the orient? That it is VERY difficult to find a keyboard, mouse, case, or power supply that is NOT made in China? Do they know that many laptops (not Lenovo) are manufactured by Chinese-owned companies, and/or made directly in China itself?

The only thing that could be worrisome is if they had Lenovo handle the builds on the hard drives, but NO classified shop should be relying on "outside" builds anyway.

Do these folks ALSO realize that by law, no computer containing classified data may be connected to a public network of any kind? How is any "bugged" machine supposed to export the data? Osmosis? Telepathy?

SirWired

Re:This crap pisses me off... (1)

tsaler (569835) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026454)

Though some enterprising company might decide that it could get the business of folks who refuse to buy products made in China, potentially including the U.S. government, and manufacture a computer made completely in the U.S. using only components manufactured in the U.S.

Is this possible? I don't know. Has someone already done it? I also don't know. But this is Slashdot, you don't do research before you click Submit. I can say with some certainty, however, that if such a company did go this route, they would be able to make quite a bit of money off of their product based on the "Made in USA" tag that you simply can't find on virtually any other computer (with any sense of honesty, anyway).

Apple certainly has won over some people with their "Designed in California" tag, even if I can track my order and see it being manufactured in Shanghai, for example. If it said "Made in the USA" and it was really true, I'm confident even more people would be won over by it.

Re:This crap pisses me off... (1)

sjwest (948274) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026566)

Indeed - but the debate in the government appears to be is the new 'Trusted Computing' software and hardware on the motherboards etc safe.

While firms like intel are not that 'willing' to discuss what there hardware does, and an austrailain employee said its not intels job to police the reports of say unauthorized file access/etc that may get sent to them.

Its an it industry problem which Bill Gates and the committee behind the secrets of what 'trusted computing is' has failed to spell out what there aims where. - safe for the mpaa/riaa or safe or for users? - I'm not a big follower of that sort of thing but i see new room for abuse here and the silience about tc speaks louder than words to me. - While our chinese friends might be honest, who really knows.

Mixed feelings (1)

dvdsmith (892766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026339)

While I see the need to be wary when a major supplier could be potentially be comprimised (a good intelligence agency SHOULD be paranoid), I sense a knee-jerk xenophobic reaction here. In my limited experience with PCs at gov't agencies, they were all imaged by the local IT admins and nothing preloaded remained from the manufacturer. Any sort of spying tools would have to be in the hardware (or BIOS?).

Anyone naive enough to think we can just "Buy Amuricun" (sic) obviously doesn't understand the PC market. Just my opinion. :)

Shouldn't that be alleged spying (1)

V7iktor (698111) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026357)

Or since everyone is spying on everyone we just assume that.

Delirious (1)

End Program (963207) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026365)

I miss the cold war. Back when hot Russian chicks seduced you into bed to trick you into giving up your national secrets. Oh wait, damn, that was James Bond :-(

This is really beautiful (or at least, ironic)! (1, Troll)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026371)

<rant>

The United States Government, that same stalwart agency that wanted to cap all civilian encryption at 56-bits, that wanted escrow technology built into every hardware encryption device, that prosecuted (persecuted?) the author of PGP for posting his work on the WWW - the same staunch defenders of freedom, champions of fairness and all that is good and right in the world; now they must contend with the possibility of somebody pissing in their soup!

Is it just me, or does anybody else feel the urge to shout "The circle is complete"?

Lenovo oughtta incorporate a fritz chip in all PC sales to the U. S. government - it should be tuned to permit only the manufacturer pre-loaded OS to boot, and to reject all attempts at modification of the encryption protocols. They should further lock the homepages on such machines to "www.whitehouse.com" and actively refuse to load any encryption technologies such as PGP, insisting instead that the hardware encryption kindly included by Lenovo be used for all security purposes. Of course, Lenovo would never install escrow technology on these machines, so the U. S. government should trust them implicitly.

</rant>

Dear Lenovo, The key is under the mat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026375)

B. Gates.

RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026384)

Did any of you even read the article?
The US government didn't think there was a security issue when these PCs were built by CHINESE workers in CHINA owned by an American company - only when the manufacturer was bought by a Chinese company.

That leaves 2 options:
Either:
The USCC thinks that Chinese Spies would need permission from the company owners before conducting such an operation
Or:
The USCC is being used as a political tool for the purposes of economic protectionizm

The recent trend toward economic protectionizm in the USA has nothing to do with national security - if it did, it wouldn't be targetted at companies based in the USAs closest allies (for example, Britain).

oddly enough... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026404)

they're worried that the laptop spies on you yet they're totally cool with running Windows.

Go figure.

Tom

Why is it a public story? (1)

XMilkProject (935232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026427)

I don't see why this is a big public story. Why did they even tell Lenovo about this.

If the U.S. is concerned (which is reasonable), then they just take a few laptops out of the shipment when it arrives and send it down to the lab to be inspected and tested. If everything is in order, pass out the rest of them.

If you do find something, then... uh... Bomb china or whatever it is we do when people piss us off. Oh, and ask for your money back.

I don't see why this should be a story, I would hope that anytime an electronics purchase is made which will involve classified data, that the devices are atleast mildly inspected before use. Especially when they are provided by a foreign country.

You are dead wrong, Zonk (3, Informative)

analog_line (465182) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026440)

This is exactly the kind of thing our intelligence communities should be getting involved in. First off, this kind of stunt would be the first thing our own intelligence agencies would try to do if the Chinese government were buying computers built by an American company on American soil. Some arm of the US intelligence community planted bugs in wine bottles and other amusing places near the UN ambassadors on the Security Council during the buildup to the Iraq War.

The Chinese practically wrote the book on espionage. For some interesting reading on the subject take a look at The Tao of Spycraft" [amazon.com] . Interesting, if extremely dry, reading if you're interested in the intelligence community. A very good look at the LONG history of intelligence practice that the Chinese government has to draw on. I got interested working in computer security when everyone else in my office was ex-mil intelligence.

And not being particularly antagonistic toward us doesn't mean anything. Back in 1999/2000, the general opinion by most of my co-workers who knew something about it was that France and Israel were the countries that were spying on us the most, with China coming in third. The only reason Britain wasn't number 1 on the list was "we already give them everything we know."

I wouldn't put it past us to try it on them, so it would be ridiculous to trust that they wouldn't try it to us too.

Re:You are dead wrong, Zonk (2, Informative)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026539)

dude.. you really need to get a grip. You think the Chinese had no prior ability to do things like you suggest before they actually purchased the laptop biz? And the USCC is not the intel community:
Composition: The Commission is composed of 12 members, three of whom are selected by each of the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, and the Speaker and the Minority Leader of the House. The Commissioners serve two-year terms.
I said many times during the DPW brooha that one cannot easily pick a point where things are 'secure' from foreign security risk. Don't want a foreign made pc? Then buy one from a US company that manufactures all the components in the US, assembles in the US and only employees US nationals. Good luck.

This is soo great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026441)

Most comments here focus on how great the job is that the intelligence does and how important it is to be sure that the "damn chinese" don't destroy your country...

Most of you seem to be so into this thought world that they don't realize that their great goverment is going through all this effort just for the sake of NOT buying 16,000 anywhere else than in china?

Jerry Taylor In Tuttle (2, Funny)

XMilkProject (935232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026461)

Probably they should ship the laptops to Jerry Taylor [slashdot.org] in Tuttle, Oklahoma for inspection.

Only on slashdot... (4, Interesting)

pmike_bauer (763028) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026487)

...are you going to find a collection of article summaries that:

1) criticize the United States for using it's intelligence resources to protect itself from a corporation operating out of Communist China.

2) criticize the US for not using intelligence resources "_enough_" to protect its ports/borders/etc.

3) criticize the US for using intelligence resource "_too_much_" by wire-tapping potential terrorists.

Go figure.

A better use of intelligence (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15026512)

There just has to be better uses of our intelligence community's time.


There is. You just don't hear about it.

What is the use? (1)

kevinT (14723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15026581)

Reading the article - it appears that there is only one company that does not use Mainland China for all or part. That is Apple.

Even Dells are put together in China! If the commies in china wanted to load something - it would already be there!
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