China is reportedly preparing to look into NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's claims that US spooks hacked into IBM, Oracle and EMC products sold to the Asian nation's universities.
The three American corporations could face a probe by Chinese police and government officials on the subject of “security issues”. The investigation would come in the wake of Snowden's allegations that the trio's kit was compromised by Uncle Sam's PRISM programme of mass global surveillance of foreigners.
News of the potential probe comes from Reuters, which cites quotes in the Shanghai Securities News, although the original piece from the state-run newswire seems to have vanished.
The action will be undertaken by China’s Ministry of Public Security, according to the newswire. The ministry has declined to comment on the reported probe.
It was former NSA contractor Snowden who revealed the existence of the US National Security Agency's PRISM, an impressive operation for collecting personal communications and messages of foreigners, purportedly in the US national interest.
But it seems China has turned its attention to the US-based enterprise computing trio – companies with diverse operations but which overlap in the areas of storage, information access and hardware.
According to one unnamed source in the Reuters report: “At present, thanks to their technological superiority, many of our core information technology systems are basically dominated by foreign hardware and software firms, but the PRISM scandal implies security problems.”
The report echoes anxieties in the West over the connections that Chinese tech companies – specifically Huawei and Lenovo – have with the People’s Government and the Red Army, especially when they are running growing chunks of critical national infrastructure. Huawei has denied there is any cause for concern, and has called claims of snooping "tired, unsubstantiated" and "racist corporate defamation".
Ironically for Oracle, its chief executive Larry Ellison this week came out in support of NSA snooping. On US TV programme This Morning Ellison called US domestic surveillance "great" and "essential" to minimising attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Which, of course took place despite the existence of Prism's carte blanche data schlup.
Separately, meanwhile, industry group the Cloud Security Alliance last month warned that US companies are losing orders from foreigners alarmed about the NSA spooks ability to access their data and communications.
The Register has contacted IBM, Oracle and EMC for comment, but they've yet to get back to us. We'll update if we hear a response. ®