Symantec, Kaspersky deny government ban in China

Both security vendors said they can still sell to Chinese government agencies

Symantec and Kaspersky Lab are both denying that China has banned their products, amid media reports that the country is shutting out foreign security vendors from selling to government agencies.

Both companies are not listed among the approved anti-virus vendors with the country's central government procurement center, leaving only domestic security providers. This prompted reports to suggest that China had excluded both Symantec and Kaspersky Lab as a way to curb the use of foreign technology.

But despite the exclusion, U.S.-based Symantec said on Tuesday its products could still be sold to the Chinese government.

"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," the company said in an email. "We are investigating this report and will continue to bid for and win governments projects in China."

Russian vendor Kaspersky Lab said it had been a provider to the Chinese government procurement center, but that the government agency had "temporarily rescinded" its endorsements of foreign security providers.

"However, this restriction only applies to national-level institutions whose funding comes from the central government procurement budget, and does not include regional governments or large enterprises," the company said in an email.

"There is no evidence that Kaspersky Lab products have been banned by the Chinese government as has been reported by some media outlets," it added.

A staff member at the central government procurement center declined to comment Monday, saying he was unclear of the situation.

The procurement center issues tenders and provides a list of software that government agencies can buy. It currently lists only five Chinese vendors among its offerings for anti-virus software, including Qihoo 360, Kingsoft, and Beijing CA-Jinchen Software.

Last year, however, the procurement center listed as many as 12 anti-virus vendors, including foreign vendors Kaspersky, ESET, Panda Security and Trend Micro. A Beijing-based vendor offering "Hope Cloud", which is powered by technology from U.S.-based McAfee, was also listed, along with Chinese vendor Beijing Eastern Micropoint Info-Tech.

It's unclear why the three other foreign vendors - ESET, Panda and Trend Micro - were later dropped. The companies could not be immediately reached for comment.

The state-owned People's Daily on Sunday drew attention only to the exclusion of Symantec and Kaspersky in its Twitter feed.

Earlier this year, the procurement center also excluded the government's purchase of Microsoft's Windows 8, without elaborating why.

China has been more vocal in calling for better Internet security, in the light of leaks about the U.S.'s secret surveillance programs. Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has claimed that the U.S. has hacked into Chinese companies and schools.

In May, China announced it would vet major IT products sold in the country for security threats. Companies that failed to pass the scrutiny would be banned from the country.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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