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Oz defence department: We don't have a ban on Lenovo kit

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Update The Australian Department of Defence has issued an official statement denying it banned the use of Lenovo computers over concerns they contained backdoor vulnerabilities.

A report from the Australian Financial Review last weekend claimed that the ban applied to top secret networks run by the intelligence and defence services of the “Five Eyes” allies – US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

the report claimed to have obtained confirmation of a written ban by “multiple intelligence and defences sources” in the UK and Oz, and further added that an Australian Department of Defence spokesman confirmed that Lenovo kit had “never been accredited” for such networks.

However, the DoD released the following short statement on its site today:

Reports published on 27 and 29 July 2013 in the Australian Financial Review allege a Department of Defence ban on the use of Lenovo computer equipment on the Defence Secret and Top Secret Networks.‪ ‪

This reporting is factually incorrect. There is no Department of Defence ban on the Lenovo Company or their computer products; either for classified or unclassified systems. ‪

That statement calls into question whether the other Five Eyes members ever had similar bans in place. GCHQ, MI5, MI6, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, and the NSA were all named as observing the now-discredited ban.

The original report had claimed that serious backdoor vulnerabilities in Lenovo hardware and firmware had been discovered in testing in the mid-2000s – vulnerabilities which could allow attackers to remotely access a device without the owner’s knowledge.

For its part, Lenovo on Monday said it was surprised by the news as it has good working relationships with public and private sector clients around the world.

“We have not received word of any sort of a restriction of sales so we are not in a position to respond to this question,” it added. ®

Updated to Add

Of course the original report never said there was an Australian defence-department-wide ban on Lenovo kit, just that the secret intelligence and security agencies of the five Anglophone nations - many of which do not belong to their parent countries' defence departments, in any case, but to other arms of government - do not use Lenovo equipment to handle highly classified data.

That fact is not denied by the Australian defence-department statement mentioned above, which contradicts an assertion that nobody actually made. The Register has since received confirmation that what was actually reported - that the allied security/intelligence community doesn't use Lenovo gear to handle sensitive data - is correct.

As usual, the use of the term "factually incorrect" by a press officer has turned out to mean that the story was true. -Ed

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