U.S.: We Have No Evidence Or Credibility On This Whatsoever, But Don't Use Huawei Because China Might Spy On You

from the inconsistent-standards dept

Even before the NSA scandal broke, I’ve been endlessly entertained watching the blistering hypocrisy toward Chinese network hardware vendor Huawei. For years Huawei has been accused of being a Chinese spy, even if investigations seem to repeatedly show no actual evidence of Chinese spying. We’re not talking about superficial inquiries, we’re talking about eighteen month, in-depth reviews by people with every interest in exposing them. Despite no evidence, every few months or so somebody in the government trots out Huawei as a bogeyman they can toss about for one political reason or another.

Never mind that almost all network gear is made in China (whether the company is Chinese or not). Never mind that obviously NSA allegations show the United States spies on almost everyone, constantly. Never mind that reports have emerged that a lot of the spy allegations are originating with their competitor Cisco. Huawei is a spy. We’re sure of it. And covert network snooping is bad. When China does it.

The constant allegations ultimately scuttled Huawei’s attempt to bring more gear competition to the United States market, blocked Huawei’s potential bid on a nationwide U.S. first responder network, and the United States has since been working hard to ensure that other countries don’t use Huawei gear either. According to the Wall Street Journal, after convincing Australia to ditch Huawei gear, the United States is also warning South Korea that Huawei might just be a spy, apparently citing all of the non-existent evidence already mentioned:

“In meetings with their South Korean counterparts in recent months, senior U.S. officials pointed to what Washington sees as a risk that Huawei’s equipment could be used for spying on communications among the close partners, as well as compromise secure networks used by American military personnel and intelligence officers in South Korea, U.S. officials said.”

The idea that somebody would indiscriminately spy using network gear sure sounds terrifying. Fortunately, United States to South Korea communications will instead rely on gear from any number of network hardware vendors, whose equipment is also built in China — in many instances in the exact same factories by the exact same workers. Not to say China is an angel or doesn’t spy (though I should note their gear is considered good enough to filter UK porn), but at this juncture the United States giving lectures on network privacy is like Lindsay Lohan giving advice on balanced and healthy living. Gosh, one would hate to think that years of trotting Huawei out as a political bogeyman pinata was all just an elaborate song and dance put on simply to sell more Cisco and Juniper routers.

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Companies: china, huawei

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Comments on “U.S.: We Have No Evidence Or Credibility On This Whatsoever, But Don't Use Huawei Because China Might Spy On You”

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Arthur Moore (profile) says:

Re: Just a thought but...

Every time Huawai is brought up I keep wondering who’s actually seen this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugdpbPW_k3g

Basically, by modern standards Huawai gear is crap. The NSA and china don’t need backdoors, the security is so bad that almost anyone could gain full control.

The other takeaway is that all the advanced debugging features, which network administrators use when things inevitable don’t work right, are only in Chinese. Not that big of a deal if your network administrators speak the language, but if they don’t the only option is to pay Huawai to manage your network for you.

I’m not saying Cisco is good, just that it’s not utter garbage.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Huwei Doesn't Need To Be Limited By Its Software Ability (Reply to Arthur Moore, #19)

From a software/firmware standpoint, routers are not uniquely complex. They just happen to be tied to a particular kind of hardware, that is, hardware geared to taking in data and passing it on, rather than retaining and manipulating it. Huwei has the option of taking its routers open-source, publishing the source code, and the hardware interfaces, and arranging that the firmware is in an easily removed little cartridge, which can be readily reprogrammed (*). Manufacturing corporations are not, on the whole, very good at running software projects (). What they are good at is organizing the production of hardware.

A hardware manufacturing corporation which is otherwise non-viable, and has nothing much to lose, can make itself viable by engaging open source.

(*) This last is what Limor Fried did with her “Onion Pi” do-it-yourself project.


() Google is a special case. It tends to function more like a national laboratory (Brookhaven, Argonne, Los Alamos, Livermore, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, etc.) than like a conventional corporation, or perhaps a better analogy would be AT&T Bell Labs and IBM Yorktown Heights during those corporations’ monopoly periods. In any case, Google may not be economically sustainable, and jobs such as launching Android may revert back to the national laboratories.

DB (profile) says:

I had heard of this before it hit the news. It was very credible, matching my preconceived ideas. I believed the story.

Later I learned that Cisco was pushing this story to win several large telecom contracts. Simultaneously they were secretly in the process of shutting down most of their US production, having gear designed and built in China, and outright reselling Chinese products.

Every time I think I’m cynical, something like this happens to show me I’m not cynical enough.

Anonymous Coward says:

absolutely unbelievable! if there is a single nation that cannot be trusted, in any way, shape or form, it’s the USA! mind you, they say the best form af defense is attack. what the USA needs to be careful of is that China stops trading with it. now that would be an interesting turn of events, considering China and Asian subsidiaries produce over 90% of everything, for everywhere, including the USA!

Anonymous Coward says:

Reading through the comments I see I am not the only one to come to the conclusion that the Huawei hardware has either a better security setup that the security agencies haven’t yet cracked to their satisfaction or that it might really be that China does indeed have a back door in their routers.

Either way reads that it might be better to have Huawei hardware. If it has better security, why would you turn that down? If China is indeed spying through routers, how is that any worse than the US doing it?

One thing I do reflect on, is that the US security outfits have absolutely no creditability. There is nothing you hear coming out from them in the line of public communications that you can believe. At this point I discard everything coming out by the administration, by these security agencies, and by their supporters claiming to bolster their stance. What I have gotten from all this Snowden stuff, is that our government is hopelessly corrupt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ever work on Huiwei? At least their early versions you actually saw the Cisco trademark on their firmware during boot, Nortel trademarks on their support documentation. You could actually compare side by side functionally similar equipment and see it exactly matched Cisco and Nortel.
Huawei didn’t infringe. They stole the entire hardware and software set and rebranded. I have heard they are making strides on removing these marks and making their equipment and documentation their own.
I’ve worked on Nortel/Ericsson equipment for 15 years (telecomm). I was exposed to Huawei when a colleague asked for help when he went to work for a start-up.
I don’t have any sympathy for this company, even if what happens to them is BS. I’m not excusing poor behavior but it’s like trying to feel sympathy for a rapist who got beat up in prison. Sure, convicts should not fear for their safety – fix that issue. I feel bad for the situation but not the victim.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Economic Autarchy and Native Sons.

Basic ground rule: if at all possible, native sons get government contracts. If it weren’t for the element of handing out favors to the good old boys, the government would just buy cheap commodity stuff. That’s simple practical politics.

It is feasible to eliminate essentially all of the hand labor in electronics assembly. That being the case, a sufficiently highly automated manufacturing plant in Texas or Ohio has no significant cost penalty as against a plant in China which uses cheap labor. The United States already has a strong position in chip wafer etching, which has never depended much on cheap labor. The government will exert pressure, by means available to it, notably government contracts, to get people to built highly automated electronics assembly plants in Texas or Ohio. This, again, is basic economic nationalism, or, as it was called in the 1930’s, during the Great Depression, “autarchy.”As long as the cost to the consumer does not go up significantly, there will be no push-back.

We went through something like this business back in the 1980’s, with automobiles, and the end result was that Toyota and Honda built factories here, and became “more American than the Americans.” They became notoriously fanatical about the use of robots, because obviously, American workers could not work up to the standard of a Japanese worker. The robots themselves were likely to be made by Japanese companies, in Japan, and imported to the United States. Of course, Toyota and Honda still didn’t get the de-luxe government contracts, things like Humvees. The Japanese had to content themselves with the American consumer market.

The difference between electronics and automobiles is that electronics are much more amenable than automobiles to being produced by robots. In terms of post-etching manufacturing complexity, electronics are trivial compared to automobiles. Huwei will wind up with factories in both Texas and Ohio, probably using robots manufactured in China.

Of course, Europe will do the same thing, and so will Japan, the same way that just about everyone subsidizes agriculture, and pays farmers not to grow alfalfa. In the end, even New Zealand will have its own autonomous electronics manufacturing capacity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Seriously, the posturing on communication with South Korea is ridiculous. If your communications are that sensitive, you should assume all your hardware is compromised by your opponent and design your network and protocols accordingly. That’s why the Navy designed Tor – it lets you (combined with a few other tools) send messages over compromised networks.

xz11111000000 (profile) says:

Damn Chinese. And they spy with pv solar panels too.

So it’s important to bring India to the WTO to force them to buy solar panels from a German company in the US to prevent Indians from making their own (and they live next to Muslim Pakistan, right?) and to keep the Chinese panels out of India and the USA with import duties.


Michael says:

China's Electronic Spying

Taiwan estimates China has 100,000 people at work in a national cyber army today. And the types of digital threats to Taiwan from China keep expanding: in October, Taiwan’s National Communications Commission found that two models of mainland China-made smart phones were transmitting data to servers overseas “many of which are in China”, creating what Taiwanese media described as a “security risk”.

Are China using inbuilt technology to capture data in production built network appliances and mobile phones. MOST DEFINETLY.

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