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China dumps Symantec, Kaspersky Lab from approved vendors

Chinese officials no longer approve the use of the two antivirus software vendors, according to reports.


China has excluded Symantec and Kaspersky Lab from a list of approved antivirus vendors, suggesting a trend of restrictions imposed on foreign technology in favor of home-grown varieties.

State-owned news agency People's Daily reported the news on Sunday. In a tweet, the publication said the Chinese government's procurement agency "has excluded Symantec & Kaspersky" from a list of approved cybersecurity software vendors. While the US-based and Russian companies don't appear to have made the grade, Chinese officials have approved the use of five other firms -- all of which are based in China.

The approved antivirus vendors are Qihoo 360 Technology, Venustech, CAJinchen, Beijing Jiangmin, and Rising, Reuters reported.

Symantec noted to Reuters on Monday that its products haven't been banned in China.

"It is important to note that this list is only for certain types of procurement and Symantec products are not banned by the Chinese government. We are investigating this report and will continue to bid for and win government projects in China," a Symantec representative told Reuters.

A notice was issued by the Public Security Ministry in June which stated Symantec software had security vulnerabilities including back doors which could allow outside access, according to Bloomberg, although the information was not made public. In an emailed statement, Symantec commented:

We are investigating and engaging in conversations with Chinese authorities about this matter. It is too premature to go into any additional details at this time.

Symantec does not put hidden functionality or back doors into any of its technologies -- not for the NSA or any other government entities.

The relationship between China and foreign technology firms has been placed under severe strain of late, following the leak of confidential documents by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. The NSA documents exposed the widespread surveillance activities of the NSA to the general public and government agencies worldwide, and this included Chinese companies. Added to the fray was the arrest of five Chinese men dubbed "military hackers" by feds for allegedly conducting cyberespionage against US-based firms.

The Chinese government and United States have continually accused each other of cyberattacks, and China's latest tactic, potentially in reprisal, is the restriction of technology provided by foreign companies. Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple have already been challenged by China due to the heightened tension between the country and the US. In May, China banned the use of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system on new government computer systems, and Apple's iPhone was recently branded a "national security concern" due to location-tracking features.

Update, 12:17 p.m. PT: Added a comment from Symantec to Reuters.

This story originally appeared as "China excludes Symantec, Kaspersky Lab from approved anti-virus vendors" on ZDNet.