Western governments have long suspected Chinese computer equipment makers of being spying factories. Huawei is typically front and center in today’s allegations about Chinese corporate spying. But Lenovo, it turns out, is a longstanding shared enemy of Western spy agencies.
This week, the Australian Financial Review, a business daily, reported that the “five eyes”—an informal reference to the spy agencies of the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada—have a common policy banning the use of Lenovo machines from their secure networks. The various intelligence agencies made this decision soon after Lenovo bought IBM’s PC division in 2005—around the same time the State Department decided against using Lenovo machines in 2006 on its classified networks (even after having already bought them).
Huawei, which was founded by a former People’s Liberation Army officer, denies that Beijing has any influence over its affairs. But Lenovo’s ties to the government are clear: The Chinese Academy of Sciences, a state think-tank, still indirectly controls part of the company. Moreover, while Huawei’s Trojan computer chips have never been confirmed, intelligence sources told AFR that British agencies tore Lenovo’s equipment apart and subjected it to a range of tests that confirmed their fears about vulnerability baked into the hardware.
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