Even Small Purchases Create Data Security Risks for Rhode Island

Last month, Microsoft warned that Chinese state-sponsored hackers infiltrated critical U.S. government and communications infrastructure with the goal of gathering information. Similar threats are posed by restricted Chinese technology purchased by many U.S. states, including Rhode Island, making its data and infrastructure vulnerable to Chinese infiltration. 

China Tech Threat’s (CTT) recent research shows between 2022 and 2023, Rhode Island spent $1,451 on Lenovo technology for use in its Department of Human Services. Though minimal, the purchase and use of this risky technology puts key state and resident data at risk of surveillance and theft by the People’s Republic of China. 

Lenovo has been banned from U.S. military and national security networks due to its connection to Beijing; yet, many states continue to allow these purchases. (More information about Lenovo and three other Chinese government-owned tech manufacturers can be found in our May briefing paper.) The Ocean State can protect its information, however, by following a growing number of states that have enacted legislation to ban state agencies from purchasing and deploying Chinese technology. 

Specifically, Rhode Island’s legislators can mirror the efforts of South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem who signed SB 189 into law in March, Idaho’s Governor Brad Little who signed HB 294 and Arkansas’ Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders who signed HB 1789 in April, and, most recently, on May 1 Indiana’s Governor Eric Holcomb who signed SB 477. Enacting similar legislation will help Rhode Island safeguard its data. CTT will continue to monitor the state’s efforts toward this goal. 

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