Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

China Wants to Investigate IBM, Oracle and EMC for Security Concerns (Update)

IBM(Update: We have received some information that part of this report might be inaccurate. We are doing further reporting on the subject and will post more as soon as we get more information.

Second update: We have corrected this story here, but will not remove this incorrect one for maximum transparency. AllThingsD is deeply sorry for the following inaccurate report.)

A branch of the Chinese government said it will investigate three large U.S.-based technology firms over what it calls “security concerns.”

If it seems like the kind of moment where certain chickens are coming home to roost, it’s no accident. You’ll probably recall all the official hand-wringing over the China-owned networking equipment giant Huawei. Congressional committees and the Obama administration have expressed worries that Huawei’s gear hasn’t been approved for use by certain government agencies because they might be used by the Chinese government to spy on those agencies.

The numerous security reviews of Huawei never proved much, but they never definitively answered the question, either. Huawei has steadfastly maintained that its equipment is secure and can be trusted, and that it isn’t a pawn of its government.

For its part, China said it is going to investigate three American companies: IBM, the computing and services giant; EMC, the storage equipment company; and Oracle, the world’s leading business-software concern.

The reason official Washington was so concerned about Huawei is because official Washington was fully aware of what its own spy agencies are capable of. The spies at the NSA and CIA can’t help but turn deep technical knowledge of American-made technical hardware into tools of their trade.

It was the CIA and Israeli intelligence that created the Stuxnet worm to attack the Iranian nuclear research program, and other worms followed and preceded it, all taking advantage of Microsoft’s Windows.

Now the Snowden affair, involving a former NSA contractor who downloaded and released documents showing numerous classified collection programs that targeted many countries — including China. As the Washington Post reported in June, an internal review of Edward Snowden’s disclosures expressed significant worry that they might compromise “sources and methods” used to spy on China.

As one former intelligence office quoted in the Post’s story put it: “It’s not in the interests of the United States for the Chinese to know exactly how we do it.”

Clearly, China’s curiosity is piqued. U.S. tech companies doing business with the Chinese government can probably expect more security reviews like this in the coming months.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work