Fortinet products pose security threat over Chinese links: Taiwan lawmaker

Based in US, Fortinet's management allegedly friendly with Chinese Communist Party

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Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (left) flags Fortinet's products  

Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (left) flags Fortinet's products   (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese lawmaker has sounded the alarm about the nation's acquisition of products made by Fortinet, a cybersecurity company with alleged links to China.

Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Wednesday (June 17) warned that the government's IT equipment supplier, Fortinet (防特網), is a national security concern. The multinational, which is headquartered in California, has a board comprised of many Chinese members, according to Lin.

Founder Ken Xie (謝青) is a Chinese-born American who, according to Lin, is "on good terms" with the Chinese Communist Party. Indeed, the relationship is intimate enough that he was even featured on a set of commemorative stamps marking the 65th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, Newtalk quoted Lin as saying.

Last year, Fortinet agreed to pay US$545,000 to settle allegations over its violation of the False Claims Act. The security company acknowledged an episode in which an employee tampered with product origin labels, which resulted in Chinese technology mislabeled as American being sold to the U.S. military.

This same illegal practice could also occur in the company's dealings with the Taiwanese government, which warrants heightened scrutiny. Government agencies, including the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, and the National Security Bureau have procured products from Fortinet worth a combined NT$500 million (US$16.9 million) over the past five years, Lin pointed out.

The government needs to be more vigilant about the security risks involved in such procurements, he urged, adding that a Cabinet-conducted survey suggested at least 38 central and 108 local government units are still using ICT equipment made by Chinese companies, per CNA.