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The USCC launched a probe against Lenovo, but many wonder if the accusations are warranted

The United States government is planning to spend roughly $13M USD on computers from Lenovo. The company, famous for buying up IBM's PC manufacturing arm, is working on a deal with the US government to produce roughly 16,000 computers. Just recently, the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission (USCC) has requested that Lenovo be probed for any concerns about possible spying, eavesdropping or worse.

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.

Many analysts would call these probes are excessive and knee-jerk.  When manufactured under IBM, almost all Lenovo PCs were built in the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) to some degree or another anyway.  Of the top 10 system builders in the US, eight have some component manufacture attributed specifically to ECS-Tatung, at Taiwanese corporation that only assembles exclusively in the PRC.  Of the other two not represented by ECS-Tatung, Dell and Apple, Dell has a strong reliance on ASUStek -- another company that builds exclusively in the PRC. 

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. The Lenovo representative did not explain details on exactly what negative implications would occur if there were future investigations. The 16,000 PCs to be built for the US government are actually assembled outside of China in Mexico, Taiwan and Raleigh -- an oddity in the PC manufacturing business.

A top tier motherboard manufacturer spokesman spoke to us off the record claiming the Lenovo probe has "foreboding" implications.  If US companies are intimidated by probes of the USCC, such probes could be easily applied to virtually every PC manufacturer in the US: Intel motherboards are built by Taiwanese Hon Hai Precision Industries from facilities in Shenzhen; Acer components are built by component manufacturers in Shanghai; Dell PCs are assembled in factories in Suzhou and Shanghai.  The same spokesperson went on to say "We [Taiwanese manufactures] do more work in China than we do anywhere else in the world. I don't even want to think about what would happen to our US clients if we got a USCC probe."

CDW Government, the company originally contracted to fill the orders for the US government also carries several brands that are assembled in the PRC including Acer, BenQ, D-Link, HP, Sharp and Toshiba. 



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Lenovo/US probe
By crystal clear on 3/30/2006 4:35:43 AM , Rating: 2
Lets put things the other way around.Would China/Russia trust the USA, when it comes to spying?Would they buy goods/services from the USA for use in their Govt depts/agencies? -without taking the necesary precautions.Would a US construction firm be allowed to build the ministry defence of china or as a matter of fact Russia allow such things.
Every govt has the right to take precautionary measures against spying.The right to self defence.Preventions is better than cure.




RE: Lenovo/US probe
By flare99 on 3/30/2006 5:52:56 AM , Rating: 3
Totally agreed with your assertion but the point is that China and Russia would not give an order to a US firm in the first place. Instead they are self sufficient enough to actually rely on themselves for all their needs.

Poor America... they relied too much on the outsourcing that now every little thing comes out from either China or India :)

Go globalization go!


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By Tupolev22m on 3/30/2006 8:56:55 AM , Rating: 2
Russia for one buys tons of US manufactured systems or systems from US companies, their domestic products are awful and our technology is still some of the best...


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By DigitalFreak on 3/30/2006 12:43:21 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, they still use analog gauges, knobs and wheels on their computers


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By Samus on 3/31/2006 4:21:50 AM , Rating: 2
You bush administration supporters make me sick. Are you saying we should just shut our doors and let the world exist without us?

Morons, we keep the world moving. Without America, everyone's economy would be fucked.


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By crystal clear on 3/31/2006 4:33:05 AM , Rating: 2
If one studies how US govt depts/agencies work you will realize that there is no co-ordination between agencies & depts.There are a long list of security agencies, each one with its huge budget,staff, buildings etc.Nobody knows what the other is doing , to top it homeland security.Govt depts are not concerned with each others activities, example the dept incharge of buying computers is not bothered about security as its not their job.Suddenly an agency shouts STOP THERE...........A organized mess in short.Thats why you get lenovo type of episodes.


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By creathir on 3/30/2006 1:44:44 PM , Rating: 3
FYI
The US Government does not own the companies in the US.
In China, their communist dictatorship owns everything, and controls everything. THAT is the difference.

Would China buy directly from the US government, of course not!

Would China buy directly from a private US firm, of course they would!

This is common sense people. You DO NOT let other states, which are HOSTILE towards you, equip your government. I would not touch these things with a 10 foot pole if I were the government. Not to mention, why give SO much money to a company outside the United States? Why not buy... Dells (I said it... yes I did... the D-word)
Or buy HPs?
Or buy any of the other fine US products or even the products of some of our allies.
China is NOT an ally, stands against the United States on anything regarding human rights, and has even REFUSED to return an airplane of ours that went down for almost a month. This country is dangerous and should not be rewarded for their egregious human rights violations.

Communism, is the enemy folks. Like it or not, but it is, and it has been for decades. When we manufacture our products, outsource everything over to them, all that does is strengthen their economy. It would be akin to buying "Made in the USSR" products left and right during the height of the Cold War. Instead, their economy would normally collapse under its own bloated weight, prompting the billion+ people who are enslaved to its government to revolt and be done with the over tried experiment of communism.

The US Government, of all entities should NOT be buying product from this country.

- Creathir


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By vxmqzz on 3/30/2006 2:26:09 PM , Rating: 2
FYI, the US plane "went down " in south China is a military plane. You should thank god thank Chinese didn't shoot it down. Will US allow another country's military plane fly over the boarder and spy on military bases? A simple logic is why a us air force plane "went down " in China? I think you should ask this before you blame the Chinese government.


As to Lenovo deal, I think USCC has the right to do this since this is its responsbility and they have the right to do so.


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By masher2 (blog) on 3/30/2006 2:40:30 PM , Rating: 2
> "Will US allow another country's military plane fly over the boarder and spy on military bases?..."

Wow, its hard to believe such misinformation exists when the real facts are available at your fingertips. The EP-3E Aries involved in this case was patrolling in international airspace. It collided with a Chinese fighter sent to intercept it, which bumped the EP-3E, damaging it enough where it was forced to request landing permission on Hainan Island. A request that China was, by treaty and International Law, bound to accept.


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By JackPack on 3/30/2006 3:18:55 PM , Rating: 2
No, the "law" only applies to civil aircraft, not a spy plane. The crew never radioed a request to land either.
http://www.asil.org/insights/insig h66.htm

The EP-3E was flying 70nm from the Island, which is within China's EEZ.


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By masher2 (blog) on 3/30/2006 3:36:40 PM , Rating: 2
Um, this is from your OWN link:

> "Since the U.S. aircraft was flying over the ocean beyond the recognized 12-mile limit of a coastal state's territorial seas, it could not be said to have been flying over the territory of China "

And further:

> "Although the U.S. aircraft then landed on Chinese territory without verbal clearance, it did so in distress. Customary international law recognizes that ships at sea have a right to enter another state's port in distress ."

And further still:

> "Aerial surveillance conducted without using the airspace of the country being observed is a common practice for the United States and other countries with the technology and equipment to do so..."


Furthermore, the aircraft did in fact REQUEST emergency landing permission but received no reply.



RE: Lenovo/US probe
By JackPack on 3/30/2006 9:18:19 PM , Rating: 2
I guess you have no idea what an EEZ is.

Nice selective quoting about a ship at sea. Too bad you didn't have the guts to quote the next sentence which says state aircraft do not have the land during distress.

Better stop digging your hole before you fall in it.


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By masher2 (blog) on 3/30/2006 9:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
> " guess you have no idea what an EEZ is..."

I know exactly what it is, and its not relevant here...a fact YOUR OWN LINK points out. The aircraft was not in China's airspace. Period.

> "Nice selective quoting about a ship at sea. Too bad you didn't have the guts to quote the next sentence "

Let's quote the whole thing, shall we?

Customary international law recognizes that ships at sea have a right to enter another state's port in distress. By analogy a similar right probably extends to aircraft in distress, including state aircraft , although the Chicago Convention does not contain an express exception to article 3(c) for state aircraft

Now, since you can't understand your own links, let me explain. The Chicago Convention applies to CIVIL AVIATION only. It is part of but by no means all of international law. Its not relevant here. Other laws are.

Your link makes a vague reference to this fact. Let me be specific. The relevant law is the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, Article 18. It specifically includes both ships AND AIRCRAFT in distress. China is signatory to this Convention and bound by it.

In short, you're wrong. Get over it and stop embarrassing yourself.

> "Better stop digging your hole ..."

Nice try, but anyone reading this thread will have no trouble drawing the proper conclusions.


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By masher2 (blog) on 3/30/2006 9:56:39 PM , Rating: 2
Furthermore, I notice you failed to answer my point on the aircraft radioing for permission to land, or for that matter, about your incorrect statements on Chinese state ownership of Lenovo.

Care to answer these, or do you admit your errors?



RE: Lenovo/US probe
By masher2 (blog) on 3/31/2006 12:42:07 AM , Rating: 2
> "I guess you have no idea what an EEZ is."

I hate to embarrass you further, but this section of the UN Convention on the Law of Sea is relevant:

Article 58. In the exclusive economic zone, all States, [enjoy] the freedoms referred to in article 87 of navigation and overflight ...and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines ...

In other words, within the EEZ of any nation, ALL OTHER NATIONS have full rights to passage by ship and submarine and overflight by aircraft. Without permission.

You should have realized this from the name alone...the EEZ is for the exclusive ECONOMIC use of the host nation. It and it alone can exploit the natural resources of the EEZ. But it cannot bar passage to any other nation.


RE: Lenovo/US probe
By JackPack on 3/30/2006 9:22:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the Chicago Convention does not contain an express exception to article 3(c) for state aircraft in distress


So we should all by Macs?
By Shadowself on 3/30/2006 9:39:24 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Of the top 10 system builders in the US, eight have some component manufacture attributed specifically to ECS-Tatung, at [sic] Taiwanese corporation that only [sic] assembles exclusively in the PRC. Of the other two not represented by ECS-Tatung, Dell and Apple, Dell has a strong reliance on ASUStek -- another company that builds exclusively in the PRC.


So of the top 10 only Apple does not build in the PRC? Thus if the U.S. Government is afraid of spying devices from the PRC companies they should all buy Macs?

<strong sarcasm> Yea, right. </strong sarcasm> THAT will never happen!

The stupid organizations need to get real and understand the global economy.




RE: So we should all by Macs?
By masher2 (blog) on 3/30/2006 9:54:27 AM , Rating: 2
You miss the point. There is a vast difference from a computer containing a part or two manufactured in China...and a computer designed, built, and shipped by a company owned directly by the Chinese Government.

And if you think China has no interest in US government and military secrets...well you haven't been following the news the past 10 years.


RE: So we should all by Macs?
By JackPack on 3/30/2006 1:07:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
by a company owned directly by the Chinese Government
Let's not spread FUD.


RE: So we should all by Macs?
By bob661 on 3/30/2006 2:25:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Let's not spread FUD.
What's FUD about that statement? Can you disprove it?


RE: So we should all by Macs?
By masher2 (blog) on 3/30/2006 2:26:13 PM , Rating: 3
> "Let's not spread FUD."

FUD? Sorry, its simple truth. Lenovo is 42% owned by Legend Holdings, which was established by the Chinese State Academy of Sciences, and who still maintains majority control.

Now 42% may not be a majority share...but given it's over three times larger than the next largest stockholder, Legend maintains complete control over the actions of Lenovo. Furthermore, an additional 6% of Lenovo is owned by a Chinese based private equity group, which itself is owned by unknown sources.

One of the first acts Lenovo took was to assign all rights to patents and other IP over to Legend Holdings.



Simply wipe the O.S. anyway...
By lifeguard1999 on 3/30/2006 10:23:13 AM , Rating: 2
The first thing that a DoD site does is open the box and bar code the computer. The second thing they do is wipe the disk drive and install a new operating system. This includes every type of computer from the latest HPC machine down to the lowly laptop with Windows XP.

Now does every government agency do this? I do not know. But at least the DoD does it.




RE: Simply wipe the O.S. anyway...
By masher2 (blog) on 3/30/2006 10:45:54 AM , Rating: 2
Wiping the OS is very litle protection, if you assume an antagonistic design. A customized BIOS could be used, the drive controller or drive itself could be modified to protect certain sectors from reformat, or even specialized hardware could be used directly on the motherboard or NIC.


RE: Simply wipe the O.S. anyway...
By flare99 on 3/30/2006 11:14:30 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah I heard those pesky chinese put in micro spies within their hardware which get to work as soon as you go to sleep. Then they torture your data and interogate it for secrets, finally they implant all this information into nano flies which takes all this data to china directly without any need for the internet.

With so high tech spy gadgets what are poor americans going to do... hmm, I have a solution: "Make your products in your own homeland". Not only will it create more jobs but will also help U.S. from the insecurity it feels from some other country's products.


RE: Simply wipe the O.S. anyway...
By masher2 (blog) on 3/30/2006 11:28:44 AM , Rating: 2
> "finally they implant all this information into nano flies which takes all this data to china directly without any need for the internet"

Are you truly so naive? Without even trying, I can think of a dozen different ways a modified laptop could be a severe security risk. Starting with a small modification to the onboard wireless NIC, coupled with a hardware keystroke logger.

Think such a thing is improbable? Read about the British Government's million-dollar electronic spy "rock", recently discovered by the Russians.

Then ask yourself why the Chinese state government decided to pay a huge sum for a laptop division that's lost money consistently for half a decade.


RE: Simply wipe the O.S. anyway...
By flare99 on 3/30/2006 12:25:46 PM , Rating: 2
Who said that these things are impossible? I just said that why jump into fire when you know the consequences.


RE: Simply wipe the O.S. anyway...
By Griswold on 3/31/2006 10:30:07 AM , Rating: 2
Are you really so naive to think that this could not be thwarted if expected? Of course you are.

And the reason they bought the PC division from IBM is simple: its a huge market over there in china and they get it for a cheap price with good products (thinkpads still rock your mommy) - all that without doing any R&D.

Geez, paranoid people with access to the "horrible"...


More of the same post-Dubai
By killerroach on 3/30/2006 1:40:25 AM , Rating: 5
After the whole Dubai ports deal, methinks the government is getting a bit oversensitive to the matter of foreign involvement, even if it's been occurring in the past (we won't let Dubai run terminals in Baltimore, but we'll let the Chinese run them in L.A. and Long Beach). Somebody's out to score political points with this one, and it could end up having serious retaliatory consequences. Unless somebody has some damaging information that could put Lenovo in trouble, this seems more of an extension of the isolationist witch-hunt that started with Dubai.




RE: More of the same post-Dubai
By creathir on 3/30/2006 1:46:20 PM , Rating: 2
No...
Dubai was something totally different.
This is buying a product, MADE by one hostile government, to use in our government.
THAT is a HUGE security risk.
- Creathir


RE: More of the same post-Dubai
By Samus on 3/31/2006 4:19:59 AM , Rating: 2
Creathir, of course you have the right to be concerned, China is after all out of control, but really, if devices were present in these machines, don't you think (without the probe) the devices will be uncovered. I can just see Tom's hardware all over that.

The 16,000 machines won't be built exclusively for the US government, it'll probably just be part of a huge batch. If anything, I'd request the order have its fulfillment selected from the batch at random to eliminate the possibility of that segment of the batch being contaminated with a recording device, etc.


RE: More of the same post-Dubai
By piasabird on 5/22/2006 1:20:12 AM , Rating: 2
Almost all parts are for computers are manufactured in Asia. Many Taiwan countries have been building facilities in China. In fact over 50% of Dell's employees are outside of United States. There is no company US or otherwise that make computers in the United States. They may assemble them, but they do not make any computers in the USA with maybe the exception of a Supercomputer or possibly a mainframe.

Feel free to name any computer made in the united states form the motherboard to the disk drive.


*Sigh*
By JackPack on 3/30/2006 2:12:02 AM , Rating: 3
What a waste of time and money. If they wanted to bug the computers, it could have been done a long time ago. Given that Taiwanese and Chinese share the same culture, language, and customs, it's not exactly difficult to infiltrate a Taiwanese firm.

But hey, if the U.S. government wants to pay extra to have Lenovo build the systems in Mexico and North Carolina, that's their choice.




why
By ishtar on 3/30/2006 5:07:15 AM , Rating: 2
Why would they place so big an order if they didn't trust lenovo? And launch a big investigation about, to really point out that they don't trust them? Sounds kinda stupid.




Hilarious!
By grandpanda on 3/31/2006 12:13:31 AM , Rating: 2
The mighty US of A is accusing other countries of spying... That's a good one.

Maybe they are also afraid the oil imported from Iraq is espionage too so they choose to take over and dig themselves...




By kubitus on 3/31/2006 2:54:59 AM , Rating: 2
If the US intends to spy on their friends and foes they would simply ask MS or better Cisco to put in a small binary module into the firmware. The binary module to be a small, by dirty programming hard to disassemble, keywatching programloader.
It would sit preferrably in the router looking at all datastreams in and out. And when it detects, lets say in some packets from an INternet service such as a search-engine a certain key-code, it begins to load its payload program, which then lets the router or computer happily trace the in-house secrets. And if it found interesting things it sends these hidden in a query to one of the popular search engines so even a network trace would be very vbery difficult to find a trace of the spying going on.




For real..
By Griswold on 3/31/2006 10:24:46 AM , Rating: 2
They should rather worry about all the chinese spies in top positions rather than some phantom menace of potentially bugged computers (which could easily be tracked).

But I guess it takes one to know one. A spy that is.




Hmm, what's the big deal?
By stephenbrooks on 3/31/2006 1:02:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think a certain amount of this checking out needs to be done just to ensure the foreign imports haven't got anything nasty in them. Not sure it needed to be as high-profile as this though.




"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il











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