Chinese authorities are planning a high-profile probe into US tech firms IBM, Oracle and EMC following revelations by Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) hacked critical network systems at universities in China and Hong Kong.

China's Ministry of Public Security and a cabinet-level research centre are preparing to investigate the allegations, according to the official Shanghai Securities News.

"At present, thanks to their technological superiority, many of our core information technology systems are basically dominated by foreign hardware and software firms, but the Prism scandal implies security problems," said an anonymous source quoted by the newspaper.

The US has previously accused the Chinese government and China-based companies of hacking its sensitive network systems. There were allegations that China is funding projects aimed at hacking the websites of key US government offices.

Furthermore in October the US House of Representatives' intelligence committee claimed that Chinese telecoms firm Huawei posed a threat to US national security.

Snowden's allegations have given considerable ammunition to Beijing, which criticised the US for what it called its hypocrisy.

Chinese regulators recently began a series of investigations into the alleged malpractice of foreign companies operating in different sectors of the world's second-largest economy.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is already investigating several foreign pharmaceutical firms over price-fixing, following the scandal that has rocked British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

The commission is also probing other sectors including milk powder, jewellery and autos over price-fixing.