Spy agencies ban on Lenovo PCs due to backdoor vulnerabilities

Pierluigi Paganini July 29, 2013

Spy agencies reportedly have a long-standing ban on Lenovo PCs due to backdoor vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to remotely access to the computers.

Spy agencies reportedly have a long-standing ban on Lenovo PCs due to backdoor vulnerabilities. Lenovo PC banned by spy agencies in the UK, Australia and the US due the possible impairment with a backdoor that could allow attackers to remotely access to the computers.

The news was reported by the Australian Financial Review  which revealed that intelligence agencies banned Lenovo PCs due the presence of backdoor vulnerabilities that were discovered during testing sessions.

The document reveals that intelligence sources confirmed the ban was decided since the mid-2000s “just after a series of test conducted for the hardware and firmware qualification on Lenovo chips.

Lenovo backdoor

The research allegedly documented  the presence of hardware and firmware backdoor vulnerabilities in Lenovo chips.

“AFR Weekend has been told British intelligence agencies’ laboratories took a lead role in the research into Lenovo’s products. Members of the British and ­Australian defence and intelligence communities say that malicious modifications to ­Lenovo’s circuitry – beyond more typical vulnerabilities or “zero-days” in its software – were discovered that could allow people to remotely access devices without the users’ knowledge. The alleged presence of these hardware “back doors” remains highly classified.”

The details on the tests conducted and related results are considered classified, but anyway it was diffused the concerning revelation, “Lenovo’s PC include vulnerabilities allegedly could provide remote access to intruders”.

The inhibition could be shared by the “Five Eyes” group of nations, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, due the strong collaboration within respective intelligence agencies.

The spy agencies fear the Chinese cyber espionage, a silent menace that is able to steal intellectual property and sensitive information from private businesses and government offices.

A security analyst at tech research firm IBRS, James Turner, said hardware back doors are very hard to detect if well designed.They were often created to look like a minor design or manufacturing fault, he said. To avoid detection, they are left latent until activated by a remote transmission. “Most organizations do not have the resources to detect this style of infiltration. It takes a highly specialized laboratory to run a battery of tests to truly put hardware and ­software through its paces,” Mr Turner said. “The fact that Lenovo kit is barred from classified networks is significant, and something the ­private sector should look at closely.”

Lenovo is a Chinese technology firm that exactly like the debated Huawei  and ZTE have long attracted suspicion and diffidence from international intelligence agencies. The Lenovo case is just the last in order of time, recently we read the allegations in The Australian Financial Review last week by the former head of the CIA and NSA, Michael Hayden, who sustains that Huawei spies for the Chinese government.

According security experts and intelligence agencies Lenovo has a strict collaboration with Chinese Government, one of his principal shareholders Legend Holdings is directly linked with China’s Academy of Sciences,  a leading academic institution and comprehensive research and development center in natural science, technological science and high-tech innovation.

Lenovo is a market leader and the possible presence of backdoors is a nightmare for UK and US governments, it’s not a mystery that every intelligence agency is exploring any methods to spy on competitors and foreign governments.

The recent revelations on PRISM and Tempora surveillance programs demonstrate the high effort spent by Western government in the definition of methods and instruments for deep massive surveillance.

Let’s remind that Lenovo hasn’t never passed the security certifications necessary to accredit  his product for supplies to Intelligence agencies.

Lenovo for the moment hasn’t replied to the allegations,  didn’t immediately respond when contacted by The Next Web, Lenovo did tell AFR that it was not aware of the spy agency ban.

“The company said its “products have been found time and time again to be reliable and secure by our enterprise and public sector customers and we always ­welcome their engagement to ensure we are meeting their security needs”.”

The great concern of Western agencies is probably motivated by their intense activity in the surveillance field, the knowledge on methods for surveillance and spying is triggering fear in the work of opponents.

Hardware impairment is a long story, the theme was a long debated and every government has matured the awareness of the necessity for qualification of hardware and firmware used in critical sectors such as the military one.

Security expert Professor Farinaz ­Koushanfar told AFR that she had “personally met with people inside the NSA who have told me that they’ve been working on numerous real-world cases of malicious implants for years.” “But these are all highly classified programs.”

Probably the denial of the agencies is related to their own activities, the problem is who really protects the consumer?

What tools do we have to qualify the hardware we buy?

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – cyber espionage, Lenovo)

you might also like

leave a comment