Following actions taken in 2019, by former President Trump, on banning the government’s use of Chinese technologies, which breach national security, a new report finds that the measure is not enforced.
On October 26, Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology reported that at least 1,681 state and local entities in 49 states purchased information and communications technologies and services banned in the U.S. between 2015 and 2021, Fox News reported.
Previously, these purchases were reported, but this is the first time it has been possible to quantify the amount.
A total of 5,700 transactions were discovered for a total value of $42.7 million, with public schools leading the list and other public services, including the judiciary.
Among the compromised companies were Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Dahua, and Hytera, which supplied products such as smartphones, surveillance cameras, temperature scanners, portable radios, and network equipment, which have been denounced as Chinese espionage tools.
According to Michael Kratsios, former chief technology officer, who served in the Trump administration, and one of the report’s authors, these technologies are highly vulnerable to foreign espionage.
“A lot of the discussion is kind of focused around this idea that these technologies could contain backdoors that enable foreign hackers to break into these systems and then exfiltrate data, monitor network activity, disrupt any of the services that are connected to these networks. The kind of the possibilities are kind of limitless.” Kratsios said.
He added: “What’s interesting about this technology is that you only need one network-connected piece of equipment to be able to potentially compromise any network that it is connected to. That’s where we see the real danger.”
In May 2021, Colonial Pipeline, the most extensive pipeline system for refined oil products in the U.S., suffered one of the worst cyber-attacks ever recorded in the country when its system was hacked, causing the temporary suspension of supply, and affecting six states in the East Coast.
Although the origin of the perpetrators is unclear, suspicions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are high due to its worrying track record. In 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the CCP carries out the most espionage activities in the country.
“We’ve now reached the point where the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours. Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China.” Wray said.
He added that in 2017, the personal data of half of the country’s citizens were breached by the Chinese military, who conspired to hack Equifax, one of the largest credit databases in the country.
He also wanted to clarify that the threat is not posed by the Chinese people but by the CCP.
“This is not about the Chinese people, and it’s certainly not about Chinese Americans. Every year, the United States welcomes more than 100,000 Chinese students and researchers into this country. For generations, people have journeyed from China to the United States to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their families—and our society is better for their contributions. So, when I speak of the threat from China, I mean the government of China and the Chinese Communist Party.”
As geopolitical and trade tensions between the two economic giants grow, the Biden administration has stepped up measures restricting the CCP from accessing the U.S.’s technological advances.
On October 12, the country banned U.S. citizens from supporting advanced Chinese semiconductor design.
The measure, which affects many U.S. citizens who hold senior positions in Chinese companies, warns that failure to comply with the legalities risks their U.S. citizenship and residency.
Chinese Regime Uses TikTok to Spy on Americans
TicTok, the popular viral video app owned by Beijing-based technology company ByteDance, has been accused of providing the personal data of its U.S. users to the CCP, threatening national security.
Recall that in China, any company, by law, must provide any information the regime demands.
Once again, the U.S. appears to be taking steps to restrict foreign interference. In September, the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment reported the need to investigate the “risks posed by foreign adversaries’ access to U.S. persons’ data.”
According to a Forbes report published in August, it was found that 300 ByteDance workers, and 50 TikTok employees, are employed at different Chinese state media, such as Xinhua and People’s Daily, which are official mouthpieces of the Chinese regime.
Also, an investigation by BuzzFeed News (BFN) found that Chinese engineers had access to U.S. user data between September 2021 and January 2022.
Some 80 meetings of the Chinese network were leaked and reviewed by BFN, “everything is seen in China,” said a member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department at one of the meetings in September 2021.
The U.S. has been increasing its push to limit access to the app in the country. In June, Brendan Carr, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, called for restrictions on the app, accusing it of collecting data secretly.
“TikTok is not just another video app. It is sheep’s clothing. It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing. I’ve called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices.”
The app had already been banned during the Trump era in August 2020, but the High Court overturned the order in November of the same year.