China excludes Symantec, Kaspersky Lab from approved anti-virus vendors

According to reports, Chinese officials no longer approve the use of the two anti-virus software vendors.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

China has excluded Symantec and Kaspersky Lab from a list of approved anti-virus vendors, suggesting the trend of restrictions imposed on foreign technology in favor of home-grown varieties is continuing.

State-owned news agency People's Daily reported the news on Sunday. In a tweet, the publication said the Chinese government's procurement agency "has excluded Symantec & Kaspersky" from a list of approved cybersecurity software vendors. While the US-based and Russian companies don't appear to have made the grade, Chinese officials have approved the use of five other firms -- all of which are based in China.

As Reuters notes, the approved anti-virus vendors are Qihoo 360 Technology, Venustech, CAJinchen, Beijing Jiangmin and Rising.

According to Bloomberg, a notice was issued by the Public Security Ministry in June which stated Symantec software had security vulnerabilities including backdoors which could allow outside access, although the information was not made public. 

The relationship between China and foreign technology firms has been placed under severe strain of late, following the leak of confidential documents by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. The NSA documents exposed the widespread surveillance activities of the NSA on the general public and government agencies worldwide, and this included Chinese companies. Added to the fray was the arrest of five Chinese men dubbed "military hackers" by feds for allegedly conducting cyberespionage against US-based firms.

The Chinese government and United States have continually accused each other of cyberattacks, and China's latest tactic, potentially in reprisal, is the restriction of technology provided by foreign companies. Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Apple have already been challenged by China due to the heightened tension between the country and the US. In May, China banned the use of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system on new government computer systems, and Apple's iPhone was recently branded a "national security concern" due to location-tracking features.

Update 14:40 BST: A Kaspersky spokesperson told ZDNet:

"There is no evidence that Kaspersky Lab products have been banned by the Chinese government as has been reported by some media outlets.

The Chinese Central Government Procurement Center temporarily rescinded its endorsements of all foreign security providers, leaving only Chinese vendors on the approved list. However, this restriction only applies to federal institutions whose funding comes from the central government procurement budget, and does not include regional governments or large enterprises. We are investigating and engaging in conversations with the Chinese authorities about this matter. It is too premature to go into any additional detail at this time.

Kaspersky Lab has always met all legal requirements in the countries where it has operations, including China. As a provider for the Chinese Central Government Procurement Center, Kaspersky Lab has long been providing superior protection to the government, enterprises and public institutions at all levels, all the while making significant contributions in various cybercrime prevention campaigns."

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