NSA Back-Door Exploits Present Hurdles, Opportunities For U.S. Companies Selling Overseas


A big variable is the location where the systems are assembled, as well as how high the demand for those systems is, DeRocker said.

Servers or PCs assembled in the U.S. and shipped overseas could be subject to interdiction by the NSA, while those assembled in other countries for sale overseas would be less likely to be intercepted, he said. But in either case, customers will increasingly scrutinize their purchases of U.S. IT gear.

"The demand is too great for non-U.S. entities to not purchase from U.S. companies," he said. "But you'll see them impose demands that products be assembled in-country, or in-region. They will want the best price, but know where they are assembled. If a German company is buying IBM servers, they'll want them to be manufactured in the European Union, and not in Raleigh, [N.C.]"

Such concerns also impact products assembled in local countries with even a small amount of components imported from the U.S., DeRocker said.

"If a German entity says its wants [Hewlett-Packard] systems, but they have to be configured in the European Union, HP might respond by saying that 80 percent of the components can be sourced locally, but the rest has to come from the U.S.," he said. "That could alienate certain manufacturers and the solution providers, which lead with those manufacturers."

Buying U.S. products from non-U.S. assembly partners eliminates the fear, or at least part of the fear, of potential tainting by the NSA, DeRocker said.

But at the same time, it also increases potential competition for solution providers.

"You will get into more competition with companies inside the customers' country," he said. "In the past, we may have had one or two competitors in Germany. Now it may be five or six. So this is more of a hurdle."

Concerns will likely be lower for products assembled outside the U.S., such as Lenovo servers and PCs, which are assembled and shipped from China, or EMC storage systems, which are built in Dublin, Ireland, for European customers, DeRocker said.

"I find it hard to believe a system manufactured in Belgium for shipment to Germany could be intercepted," he said. "But we don't know that for sure."

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