Prairie Infrastructure Protection Act First Step In Protecting Illinois’ Data

As reported by AP News, a former Illinois Institute of Technology student was convicted in January of acting as a spy in the U.S after having sworn his allegiance to China’s Ministry of State Security. Equally frightening is the access Illinois may be giving to the People’s Republic of China through its purchases of risky Lenovo technology as uncovered in China Tech Threat’s (CTT) recent research.

Though minimal – the state spent $8,472 on the dangerous technology – its presence in the Secretary of State’s office and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission is troubling and makes key sensitive information vulnerable to Chinese espionage. According to its website, the Secretary of State’s office “manages one of the largest computer databases in Illinois.” This is troubling. Yet, CTT’s February briefing paper reveals Illinois is not alone as many other states also use this technology already restricted by U.S. military and intelligence agencies due to its connection to the Chinese government and military. 

Soon this risk may be mitigated. State Representative Blaine Wilhour introduced HB 3581, the Prairie Infrastructure Protection Act, prohibiting governmental entities from entering into a contract or other agreement relating to critical infrastructure with a company that is associated with China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, or another designated county. 

This legislation, recently referred to the Rules Committee, is part of a wave of actions from legislators in over a dozen states that have taken action to ban the purchase and deployment of this Chinese-owned technology by state agencies, including South Dakota where Governor Kristi Noem signed SB 189 in March and Idaho where Governor Brad Little signed HB 294 on April 2. Illinois should make every effort to pass this legislation and protect its sensitive information against Chinese technology aggression.