Utah’s Data at Risk from China-owned Products Purchased by State

As the U.S. settles into a new president and congress, the threat that China poses to the U.S. has never been clearer. At his confirmation hearing this week, Anthony Blinken, President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State said, “As we look at China there is no doubt that it poses the most significant challenge of any nation state to the United States in terms of our interests, the interests of the American people.” Blinken also emphasized the need for the U.S. government to act in order repair some of its “own self-inflicted weaknesses” against China. China Tech Threat has shown that the one of these weaknesses comes from state governments continuing to purchase U.S. military-restricted equipment. This includes buying products from Lenovo, a Chinese-owned company that has been restricted by multiple military and intelligence agencies in the U.S. and around the globe because of security deficiencies.

Through a FOIA request, we found that Utah has spent a total of more than $11 million on Lenovo products in recent years, despite the Chinese government having access and control over all data on their products.

Read our full Utah FOIA report here:

Most concerning is the wide range of Utah government agencies that have purchased Lenovo’s restricted equipment. They range from education to the state retirement system. A wide range of agencies that touch almost every division of state government is using this technology and its use is endangering sensitive data of Utah residents.

For example, The Utah System of Higher Education has spent more than $6 million on Lenovo equipment. Private records held by the department could include financial records, criminal records and a range of personal information required for entrance into higher education institutions.

Further, The Utah State Board of Department of Education exercises “general control and supervision” over the public education system in Utah, including establishing the state educational core standards, state educator licensing policies, and state high school graduation requirements. It has spent more than $3 million Lenovo equipment that could potentially damage the privacy and protection of those it is intended to serve.

State and federal officials representing Utah should work together to take action against these risky purchases. Christopher Hughes, Director of the Division of Purchasing and General Services, can work within the state government to prevent Lenovo products from being used or purchased.

Congressional leaders from Utah also have a responsibility to act. Senator Romney has been a prominent China Hawk in Congress. At a recent hearing, he outlined the need for the United States to develop a comprehensive strategy to confront China’s growing aggression. He recently said, “Their [China] cyber theft, putting people in our universities to steal technologies. The list goes on and on”.

In the House, Representative Chris Stewart holds a prominent position on the China Task Force and has been focused on challenging threats that China presents. Of China’s rise, he has said, “we are witnessing a generational geopolitical realignment as the world begins to recognize the true intent of Chinese leadership’s capabilities and ambitions.” Rep. Stewart can take action in his own state to counter these true intents.

This bipartisan issue effects all Americans. We urge those who can act to do so and we hope that our elected officials who work to protect user privacy will resolve this increasingly concerning threat.