China has excluded US-based Symantec Corp and Russia’s Kaspersky Lab from a list of approved antivirus software vendors, media reports said this week. Shunning the foreign products, authorities are said to have chosen five domestic brands for online security products.
According to the Twitter feed of state-owned People’s Daily newspaper, the approved local antivirus software firms are Qihoo 360, Venustech, CAjinchen, Beijing Jiangmin and Rising. It marks the first time the government has decided to procure only locally-developed anti-virus software.
The move suggests that Beijing is stepping up efforts to promote the use of domestic information technology products due to concerns over spying by foreign entities. Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid last year on Washington’s extensive online surveillance programs.
As part of curbs on foreign products, Beijing had in May this year banned the use of Microsoft’s operating system Windows 8 on new computers procured by the government.
Foreign antivirus companies have their servers overseas, which means information is sent back and forth to those servers, increasing the chances of information leakage.
The Chinese government worries that foreign antivirus firms have security vulnerabilities that would allow backdoor access onto the machines that are running the programs.
Apart from Microsoft, firms such as Cisco and IBM have also encountered challenges in China since the Snowden disclosures last year.
For central government related entities, security and ease of control are top priority, which is why domestic antivirus software will get a preference. However, it may not be the case when it comes to administrations at lower levels.
First of all, the latest move doesn’t apply to regional and local governments. In this market segment, local firms still face tremendous competition from foreign brands.
There is also a big difference between the government market and the private market. There are always political factors behind Beijing’s decisions, while the general public is more concerned about user experience, Kingsoft Security vice president Zhang Xu told the Southern Daily.
Foreign players may be at a disadvantage at the moment, but they are not giving up the big market without a fight. Symantec, for example, said it will continue to bid for government contracts in the country despite the central government’s move.
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