Trinidad Confirms Existence Of Spyware In Laptops Used In Its Schools’ IT Programs
There have been numerous publications raising security concerns on the laptops supplied to the Caribbean governments and agencies by foreign companies and governments. All were speculating that these laptops were running spyware programs without the explicit knowledge of the user.
Innov8tiv also featured an article about an alleged espionage activity by the Chinese government through the supply of Lenovo laptops to Caribbean government officials. Following these concerns, certain amateur radio organisation in Trinidad and Tobago has run some tests on the computers supplied by China and has confirmed that indeed these computers have malicious software installed in them.
Last Saturday, Julien Dedier, chairman of the board of directors of the Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Radio League (TTARL) wrote a letter to the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA). The letter stated that TTARL’s intelligence group have conducted some investigations and testing on several computers supplied to Trinidad’s school children in the period between 2012 and 2014.
Dedier wrote, “In layman’s language, the children are being spied upon and at the same time being used as gateway for spying purposes. The compromised computers were sending back information via a backdoor protocol, which is normally used by government spy agencies around the world.”
Dedier further explained that his daughter, who also attends a government secondary school, has been issued with a computer that had a spyware installed in it. This is illegal as per Trinidad and Tobago’s Interception of Communication Act.
Students joining Form One in government schools in Trinidad and Tobago are entitled to a new laptop, which comes preinstalled and already configured software. The government made a slight change in this program by switching from Hewlett Packard (HP) laptop to Lenovo laptops from the Chinese that costs less.
Education Minister, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, also revealed that last year some 3,300 of the recently purchased 21,500 Lenovo Thinkpad laptops from the People’s Partnership government which are to be shipped to Saint Lucia as part of a government-to-government agreement.
Gopeesingh said that the 3,300 laptops were to be distributed to students in Form One to Form Four in Trinidad and Tobago secondary schools. He further added that all of the principals and supervisors of primary and secondary schools had been issued laptops. The laptop program by the government of Trinidad and Tobago made the country ranked high among the top countries that have been integrating IT with education.
The Australian and British intelligence service have come out strong saying that Lenovo computers have circuitry modifications and other added hardware exploits that can enable a third party to access the computers remotely without the owner’s knowledge.