China is engaged in an ongoing cyber-espionage dispute with the USA

China bans Windows 8 and screens IT firms for espionage risks

Computers of China's government won't be allowed to run Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, China said, while announcing widespread investigations of IT suppliers to protect national security. 

According to Chinese state Xinhua news agency, China will launch widespread investigations to determine which companies enable data gathering and eavesdropping. Those that won't pass will be subsequently banned from the Chinese market. The move is claimed to have been designed to protect ‘national security’ and ‘economic and social development’. However, the decision is believed to have been prompted by the ongoing cyber-espionage dispute between China and the USA.

Earlier this week, five Chinese military officers were charged with hacking US companies and stealing trade secrets, which enraged the east-Asian super power.

The first victim of the alleged espionage crackdown, interpreted by some as retaliation for the US move, is Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. On Thursday, China’s People’s Daily newspaper reported governmental computers in China will not be allowed to run Windows 8 as the system could be controlled remotely as part of the US National Security Agency’s Prism programme.

According to the Xinhua agency, the newly launched supplier investigation will focus on product security and will seek to prevent suppliers from illegally gathering, storing or processing user data.

"For a long time, governments and enterprises of a few countries have gathered sensitive information on a large scale, taking advantage of their monopoly in the market and technological edge," Xinhua quoted Jiang Jun, spokesman for the State Council Information Office, as saying.

"They not only seriously undermine interests of their clients but also threaten cyber security of other countries."

A small number of governments and businesses "take advantage of technological monopolies to collect sensitive data on a large scale" from the Chinese government, business and institutions, Xinhua added, saying there had been extensive wiretapping and security breaches.

Documents leaked by former US security contractor Edward Snowden "rang alarm bells" over cyber security, Jiang added.

Xinhua did not give details of which governments or businesses it was referring to but US security standards for information technology were not transparent or clear-cut, Xinhua added.

China has also targeted other foreign tech firms in recent months, including Qualcomm. The anti-monopoly regulator accused the US chip giant of overcharging and abusing its market position.

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