Obama ramps up Chinese vendor scrutiny

Melissa Chua
02 Dec 2011

In an escalation of the US government's scrutiny of Chinese vendors' equipment, president Obama has ordered AT&T and Verizon to divulge confidential information about the structure of their networks.

The two carriers, which now face a dilemma between internal and national security, are among a list of companies which received a survey in April from the US commerce department. The survey asked firms to provide a detailed list of foreign-made equipment and software on its networks.

The motivation behind the survey was fear that spyware could be implanted in foreign-manufactured equipment, which pose a risk to national security. Companies which do not respond could face criminal charges.

According to Bloomberg News, which obtained a copy of the survey, companies were required to provide details on the origin of optical-transmission components, transceivers and base-station controllers. Details on discovered security breaches within the company, such as “unauthorized electronic hardware” or suspicious equipment capable of data duplication and redirection also had to be revealed.

Firms were also asked to list foreign telecommunications equipment manufacturers which offered the most attractive discounts and leasing schemes, as well as the terms manufacturers requested, including physical access protocol, in return for such discounts.

Two trade groups, the US Telecom Association and CTIA – The Wireless Association, have protested the issue of the survey on the grounds that such actions deviate from voluntary cooperation between the telecoms industry and government in the name of national security.

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