Edward Snowden

China must investigate links between White House and businesses: expert

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 6:51am

The mainland government should launch an immediate investigation into connections between US companies and the White House, a cybersecurity expert in Shanghai says.

Bloomberg yesterday quoted a source as saying that following an attack on his company by Chinese hackers in 2010, Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, was provided with highly sensitive US government intelligence linking the attack to a specific unit of the People's Liberation Army, China's military. Brin was given a temporary classified clearance to sit on the briefing by US intelligence officials.

In 2011, Google accused Chinese hackers of stealing the passwords of hundreds of Google e-mail account holders, including US officials, Chinese human rights advocates and journalists. It also partly pulled out of China after failing to reach an agreement with Beijing over censorship in 2010.

According to information provided by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Google had at that point been a participant of Prism - the clandestine electronic surveillance programme operated by the US National Security Agency - for more than a year. But Google CEO Larry Page said in a blog on June 7 that he had not heard of the programme. After the Snowden disclosure, he said Google provided user data to governments "only in accordance with the law".

The Shanghai expert said that if the allegations were true, China and other countries could impose huge fines on US software and hardware giants such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco for threatening national security. The expert declined to be named due to the topic's sensitivity.

Affected governments would need the money to replace compromised software and hardware, especially in the telecommunication sector, with hundreds of millions of users affected on the mainland alone, he said.

But obtaining such evidence would be very difficult, if not impossible, without the help of an insider. "The evidence that Snowden has in his hands will be an invaluable asset to governments and businesses around the world," the expert said.

Tang Wei, senior security engineer with Rising, a major mainland computer antivirus company, said that a fundamental shake-up of the industry would not happen any time soon.

"Some foreign products are considerably cheaper or perform considerably better than their domestic competitors. Some foreign products do not even have a domestic competitor," he said.

"But in the long term, the credibility and reputation of made-in-US products will unavoidably suffer due to their link to the White House."