Chinese state media labels Windows 8 a 'potential threat'

Summary:The Chinese state media attack on US software and hardware continues, with China’s CCTV state network broadcasting a critical report suggesting that Windows 8 is being used to harvest data about the country’s citizens for use by the US government.

Chinese Central Television (CCTV), one of the country's leading state television broadcasters, has weighed into the Chinese media's continuing attack on US software and hardware systems, with a news report suggesting Windows 8 is a "potential threat" to China's information security.

In the report, aired this week, Ni Guangnan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that the operating system has the potential to collect more detailed information about Chinese nationals than the country's own government can claim — with that data potentially ending up in the hands of the US government.

"Your identity, account, contact book, phone numbers, all this data put together can be used for big data analysis," said the academic. "This analysis could be more accurate than our own official statistics. The US has a law that requires any entities that have this data to voluntarily report to the government. So, the data might be a good way to monitor other countries."

According to Yang Min from Fudan University — who was also interviewed in the report — Microsoft has moved to withhold its source code from the Chinese government as it reviews US equipment within its borders, and poses a "challenge" to security.

"Microsoft would no longer open its Windows 8 source code to the Chinese Government," he said. "However, the security scheme of the operating system is designed to provide better access for Microsoft to users' database, for China, it's a big challenge on our information security.

"China has set up an office to study cyber security and information technology in order to create our own operating system that solves the problems we're concerned with."

The news report suggests that the security "challenge" posed by Windows 8 is why "many countries such as Russia and Germany" are using domestic operating systems in their government offices.

Both countries have made moves to open source operating systems within their government agencies.

"China is also following suit," said a CCTV reporter in the news segment.

The CCTV report comes only hours after Chinese state media outlets, China Daily and the People's Daily, ran an article warning that US-based technology organisations, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft could become "cybersecurity threats" for the country.

China's suspicion of US hardware and software has been building since documents leaked last year by US whistleblower, Edward Snowden, revealed the extent of the US National Security Agency's Prism surveillance data mining operation.

Since then, cyber-espionage accusations have flown between the two countries, with the US government charging five men last month, alleging that the Chinese military operatives had hacked into US companies for trade secrets.

Meanwhile, last week, rumours emerged that the People's Bank of China and other government agencies were reviewing whether the country's commercial banks' use of high-end IBM servers compromised China's financial security, and were urging the banks to remove the servers and replace them with locally-manufactured and maintain equipment.

In May, it was reported that the Chinese government had ordered a ban on the use of Windows 8 in all new government computers, and had suspended co-operation with the US on cyber security issues.

Topics: Security, China, Microsoft, Windows 8

About

Leon covers enterprise technology and start-ups from ZDNet's Sydney newsroom.

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