Return of Lenovo tempest

State will use 900 Chinese machines in classified network. Does that make North Carolina-produced machines more dangerous?

Back in March, the State Dept. was roundly criticized for purchasing 16,000 Lenovo PCs (that's the Chinese company that bought IBM's PC business). At the time we characterized concerns from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission as evidence of isolationist paranoia.

After all, what were the concerns, that the Chinese company would insert secret chips inside the machines that would transmit US secrets back to Beijing?

In an article in the Times, Randall Stross says, "The Lenovo desktops headed for the State Department will be assembled in facilities in North Carolina, not a People's Liberation Army compound in China. Also unexplained was how infected machines would meet General Services Administration security standards and get past the State Department's two computer security groups, which oversee the administration of their own test suites and install firewalls and other security software."

He also quotes James C. Mulvenon, deputy director of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, who described the controversy about Lenovo as "xenophobia and anti-China fervor dressed up as a technology concern."

OK, that's all background to this news: State now says they will use 900 of the machines in a classified network that will carry Pentagon and secret State Dept. information, the Post reports.

On that the forces of patriotism swelled up.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.). Wolf last week wrote the secretary of state to say he was "distressed to learn that your department may be jeopardizing this [$4.2 billion] investment in a secure [information technology] infrastructure." "These computers should not be used in the classified network," Wolf wrote.

As ZDNet member Deacon336 observes : "I find it amusing that these are the same PC's that carried the IBM trademark a few months ago. They are still made in the same manufacturing facility by the same people. Only now, it is no longer "politically correct" to buy the same units."

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