The Australian Government Department of Defence has denied claims that it has banned Lenovo PCs from its secure networks, calling the reporting of the issue "factually incorrect". The denial comes after reports emerged over the weekend that five top spy agencies in countries including the US, UK and Australia had banned the Chinese machines from being used on "classified" networks.
An investigation by the Australian Financial Review (AFR) found that the alleged ban had been enforced at some point in the mid-2000s following "intensive tests", which found "back-door hardware and firmware vulnerabilities".
The report cited security sources saying that tests carried out by UK security labs found "malicious modifications" to Lenovo's chips that could "allow people to remotely access devices without the users' knowledge".
However, the AFR also maintained that the company is still a significant supplier of computers for western governments' "unclassified" networks.
The Home Office told V3 that it was unable to comment on security issues and would neither confirm or deny a ban on Lenovo products.
A Lenovo statement said that the firm had not been aware of any ban on its products: "Lenovo continues to have a strong relationship with government customers, so the claims being made are new to us. We are looking into this situation closely and we'll be sure to share updates when available."
The AFR cited an Australian source saying that Lenovo – which bought out IBM's PC business in 2005 – had never sought accreditation to supply Australian defence and intelligence services.
The report was the latest in a series of security controversies for Chinese hardware manufacturers, with Huawei recently criticised for "locking out" GCHQ security personnel from its Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, which was set up to address concerns over its supplying of hardware for BT networks.
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