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Chinese media attack Cisco

State run outlets say the company is conspiring against China, undermining infrastructure

By Jim Duffy on Thu, 11/29/12 - 4:23pm.

Striking back at the recent backlash against homies Huawei and ZTE, China's state media has taken to bashing Cisco and the US for what it alleges are conspiracies to attack Chinese competitors and compromise the country's network infrastructure. This follows a move a month ago by China's pre-eminent carrier, China Unicom, to remove Cisco gear from its backbone due to security concerns.

The separate events are in response to a U.S. House Intelligence Committee report in early October that determined Huawei and ZTE pose a national security threat. Concurrently, Cisco cut ties with longtime partner ZTE after an internal investigation concluded that ZTE sold Cisco gear to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Soon thereafter, reports surfaced that Cisco and other U.S. telecom companies that compete with Huawei and ZTE may have been behind the Congressional report on the dangers of doing business with the Chinese.

Determined to keep the guns blazing, the magazine China Economy and Informatization this week ran a front-page story about the security threat posed to China by Cisco and other US companies, based primarily on data from China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Team (CNCERT). The magazine, according to TechinAsia.com, claims that Chinese servers are being subverted by Trojans and botnets originating from America.

TechinAsia notes, however, that the article is misleading:

CNCERT's most recent information security report rates the threat to China as "moderate," makes zero mention of Cisco, and does not suggest that the US or US companies pose any particularly grave threat as compared to other nations. CNCERT's 2011 report - which, presumably, is the data set China Economy and Informatization was drawing from - is roughly the same. The United States is mentioned only twice as the source of attacks mentioned in the report, and is not listed as a significant threat. Cisco isn't mentioned at all, and CNCERT's summary of 2011 states that "China's internet and network security situation continues to be stable, without any major internet safety incidents" and that things are generally improving.

Regardless, the China Economy and Informatization article appears to be the first in a coordinated attack on Cisco by the Chinese state media. In a follow-up post, TechinAsia noted several other Chinese media outlets insinuating that Cisco's presence in China is harmful to domestic commerce and national security.

TechinAsia concludes that the reports are in retribution to the cold shoulder the U.S. is giving Huawei and ZTE, and that formal investigations into Cisco and other U.S. companies with a presence there may be forthcoming from the Chinese government. At the very least, a "protracted trade war" appears to be underway, according to the site.

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