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Huawei Using NSA Scandal To Turn Tables On Accusations of Spying 183

Posted by timothy
from the innocent-whistling dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecom giant banned from selling to U.S. government agencies due to its alleged ties to Chinese intelligence services, is trying to turn the tables on its accusers by offering itself as a safe haven for customers concerned that the NSA has compromised their own IT vendors. 'We have never been asked to provide access to our technology, or provide any data or information on any citizen or organization to any Government, or their agencies,' Huawei Deputy Chairman Ken Hu said in the introduction to a 52-page white paper on cybersecurity published Oct. 18. Huawei was banned from selling to U.S. government entities and faced barriers to civilian sales following a 2012 report from the U.S. House of Representatives that concluded Huawei's management had not been forthcoming enough to convince committee members to disregard charges it had given Chinese intelligence services backdoors into its secure systems and allowed Chinese intelligence agents to pose as Huawei employees. But the company promises to create test centers where governments and customers can test its products and inspect its services as part of an 'open, transparent and sincere' approach to questions about its alleged ties, according to a statement in the white paper from Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei. Can Huawei actually gain more customers by playing off the Snowden scandal?"
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Huawei Using NSA Scandal To Turn Tables On Accusations of Spying

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 19, 2013 @08:34AM (#45173763)

    The bigger a nationally sponsored corporation becomes, the more obviously it becomes an asset. It's like choosing between corrupt police and the mob.

    Just because the NSA spies doesn't prove Huawei doesn't. This line of reasoning is guaranteed to fool a few morons and nobody else.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @08:43AM (#45173801) Journal

      The bigger a nationally sponsored corporation becomes, the more obviously it becomes an asset. It's like choosing between corrupt police and the mob.

      Just because the NSA spies doesn't prove Huawei doesn't. This line of reasoning is guaranteed to fool a few morons and nobody else.

      Unfortunately, it leaves those morons with a semi-conscious or unconscious choice between being spied on by A (and possibly others) and being spied on by B (and possibly others). The wise person, on the other hand, merely faces a conscious choice between being spied on by A (and possibly others) and being spied on by B (and possibly others).

      • It would be reasonable to assume the reason the NSA is badmouthing Huawei is because they wouldn't spy for the NSA. You play ball by their rules or you don't play at all. This doesn't mean Huawei isn't spying for china, however. Given the prevalence of state sponsored/ordered spying it is almost certain they do.
      • by HiThere (15173)

        Yeah. But for some reason I think I have less to worry about (directly) from the Chinese government that from the US government. I would have thought that neither would be interested in me, but the NSA has proven that incorrect.

    • by johanw (1001493) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @08:44AM (#45173803)

      Nope, but assuming both spy, whose spying would you care the most? As a home user, the Chinese government has no interest in me. I have no contacts with the Dalai Lama. The US government probably has, since I'm hurting their sponsors by downloading the latest movies.

      • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @09:04AM (#45173879) Journal

        Nope, but assuming both spy, whose spying would you care the most? As a home user, the Chinese government has no interest in me. I have no contacts with the Dalai Lama. The US government probably has, since I'm hurting their sponsors by downloading the latest movies.

        This analysis is probably breaks down somewhat for persons of particular interest - their data would be traded. For instance, China might trade your downloading history and identity to the US in return for some dirt on activities of one of the Dalai Lama's acolytes. Neither of these has much direct value to the spy who has it, but it has rather more value to the other. The analysis breaks down more generally for monitored persons in third countries. For instance, if one is in France or Egypt or Brazil, one's data is of interest to both of these protagonists, mostly for trade to third parties in return for other data.

        No spying at all (or no sharing of such data with other agencies) would be preferable for most of us.

        • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @10:13AM (#45174171)

          That's an extremely paranoid, borderline tin foil hat, conspiracy theory. Given recent information that has helped people determine the veracity of such wild eyed ideas, there's a very good chance you're right.

          • by lgw (121541)

            That right there is the worst part of the NSA stuff. You can't dismiss any tinfoil hat conspiracy theory out of hand any more. It's really frustrating. Did Obama have trouble producing a birth certificate because he's really a shape-shifting Reptoid from Mars? ... probably not? But if so, I'd only really be shocked that NASA was in on it, at this point.

            Trust in government - trust that they're individually somewhat dishonest for personal gain, but not collectively conspiring against the people - is so va

      • The US government probably has, since I'm hurting their sponsors by downloading the latest movies.

        Exactly. Or perhaps your upset with trillion dollar bailouts to the banks while more and more of the middle class slip into poverty so you decide to democratically voice your concerns - only to be picked up the spy dragnet [startpage.com] and harassed, fired, put on no-fly and do-not-employ list's (yes, all these things have already happened to key OWS leaders). How long before your crime may be as simple as expressing your dissatisfaction with our ruling elite on forums such as Slashdots. Going by current trends, I would

      • The government of china has a vested interest in hurting the economy of the USA (and you), in order to replace them as the (only) super power. They might not care about YOU, but they still wish you harm.
        • by Clsid (564627)

          Care to show any proof of such ramblings?

          • by mjwalshe (1680392)
            high profile comments about the world needing a new reserve currency? if the US lost its status that woudl hurt all Americans badly
      • by evilviper (135110)

        As a home user, the Chinese government has no interest in me. I have no contacts with the Dalai Lama.

        As a home user, you're not too important to anyone, but China certainly could use your connection as a base to launch attacks from. For businesses, though, China is VERY interested in stealing all the trade secrets they can get their hands on, and passing them to domestic Chinese firms who will be happy to offer competing products at much lower prices. They don't even try to keep that part secret...

      • Might be true but if you are a US corporation you should be more afraid of China since they are interested in stealing your trade secrets and handing it to their businesses:

        According to this year's annual report on cyber-crime, Verizon found 96 percent of the world's cyber-espionage, stealing trade secrets and intellectual property, came from one country: China.

        Security specialists say China is using theft as a national development strategy, pilfering software for wind turbines, fiberoptic cable technology, blueprints for weapons systems like the Joint Strike Fighter.

        http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/military/july-dec13/cybercrime_07-08.html [pbs.org]

        Despite all the revelations of NSA spying they are not gathering trade secrets and handing them to American companies. Since neither Cisco nor Huawei is focused on the consumer market your argument takes the wrong perspective.

        • by Znork (31774)

          Um, yes, NSA is engaged in industrial espionage as well. At least Petrobras has been suggested as a target as well as the known ECHELON incidents. Most likely they're just better at hiding it as they tap directly in to the infrastructure rather than engaging in directed intrusions as often.

          And frankly, even as a US corporation I'd say there's cause to worry unless you're the one cosying up with the NSA or your trade secrets might just end up with your competitors who happen to be pals with the right brass.

      • by NoKaOi (1415755)

        Nope, but assuming both spy, whose spying would you care the most? As a home user, the Chinese government has no interest in me. I have no contacts with the Dalai Lama. The US government probably has, since I'm hurting their sponsors by downloading the latest movies.

        Not to mention that if some stupid design-by-bureaucracy algorithm false positive red flags you, the US government is more likely to do something about it, even if it just means putting you on a no-fly list, but it could also mean dragging you in an interrogating you and then slapping you with a NSL so you can't talk about it just because some government employee wants to cover their ass. You're more out of reach of the Chinese government, so they're not going to try to do anything unless you try to enter

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @08:50AM (#45173827)

      Well of course it does not. But one thing is at least certain, the chance that Huawei hands over everything and everything you give them to the US government is lower than Google doing the same. In return, your chance to be betrayed by Google when it comes to keeping secrets from China is higher.

      In other words, you can essentially choose between the Chinese government knowing everything about you or the US government doing so.

      And now ponder which country your country is more likely to hand you over to.

      • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @08:57AM (#45173855)

        I think i can guarantee that Huawei does not hand over anything to the US government, as the US refuses to use their kit :)

        Maybe, and this could be a bit of anti-conspiracy theory here, that the reason the US refuses to use their kit is not because of the usual financial protectionism, nor of some vague bull about sending all your packets to china, but simply because they do not send any packets anywhere - even to the NSA, hence the reason they are banned from use. :)

        • 25 years ago you'd have gotten a lot of recommendations for how to decrease your tinfoil hat's pressure on your cranium.

          Today, I can't help but consider it an actually plausible reason.

        • by cbhacking (979169)

          Nobody in their right mind uses Huawei kit, because it will cheerfully send packets to anybody who asks. DEFCON 20 had an eye-opening presentation on exactly how shitty their code was, at least on their networking equipment. The upshot? There's no need for a government backdoor when the code quality is so abysmal. A pair of hackers were able to find laughably easy (think 80s- or early 90s-grade vulnerabilities, things like strcpy into small buffers and such) remote exploits and the devices have no exploit m

    • by bickerdyke (670000) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @10:55AM (#45174507)

      Just because the NSA spies doesn't prove Huawei doesn't..

      Well, yes.

      buuut one of them has been caught doing so....

    • by johanw (1001493)

      Why conquer a country when you can do buisiness with them? Throughout history, the Chinese have not been expansionalist during millenia. That's not what can be said from the European invaders whose offspring make up the current US population.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      So the question becomes, would you rather be spied on by the USA or by the Chinese?

  • Bizarro world (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @08:47AM (#45173819)

    Imagine you had told someone 25 years ago that China offers you a safe haven from being spied on by the US and possible repercussions because of it...

    • If you lived on a latin american country, that statement would simply make sense at any point in time.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Saturday October 19, 2013 @09:00AM (#45173861) Homepage Journal

    There was a Snowden brief a short while ago that showed that one of the major switch vendors had given NSA a direct backdoor into their products. One of the people covering that story said something like, "I can't tell you that it's Cisco, but it's Cisco". The real problem with this situation is that we really don't know which of these things is true.

    Back when the USG banned the use of Huawei products, most people assumed that it meant that there was spying functionality in it that had been discovered. However, in light of Bull Run, it's definitely worth asking if what might have happened is that they refused to install spying technology and the USG report was meant as a way to discredit the company and prevent its market penetration.

    • by Tom (822)

      Back when the USG banned the use of Huawei products, most people assumed that it meant that there was spying functionality in it that had been discovered.

      Uh, no? Over here in Europe, a lot of people assumed it meant the US vendors had had a nice chat with their government, complaining about the cheaper competition and promising campaign contributions.

      Not that we weren't afraid of chinese backdoors. I was in the telco industry back then and the discussions were fierce and not exactly short about whether or not to use their stuff. But the US banning them just as they were gaining market share like crazy? That was such an obvious protectionist move.

    • The 'owner' of Huawei is a top person within the communist party. He was a long time officer with their military. For CHINESE employees only, he gives them ownership. No others.
      And you think that it is NOT laden with backdoors? Really?
  • they did not include the US Govt approved NSA backdoor in their products
  • Doubtful Tactic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 19, 2013 @09:04AM (#45173877)
    I'm an I.T. manager for a non-western company that has non-western defense contracts, one of those sort of conglomerates that does every activity under the sun. I doubt their ploy will actually work, we don't trust the US or the Chinese. It's a matter of "pick your poison". Still, anyone foolish enough to buy Huawei (Their firmware universally sucks, from modems to enterprise/service-level network and backhaul equipment) might be foolish enough to believe they're safer. In reality though, you're more at risk from the security exploits from Huawei's lazy half-assed programmers. I fear their coders more than any possible shadowy relationships.
    • by X.25 (255792)

      I'm an I.T. manager for a non-western company that has non-western defense contracts, one of those sort of conglomerates that does every activity under the sun. I doubt their ploy will actually work, we don't trust the US or the Chinese. It's a matter of "pick your poison". Still, anyone foolish enough to buy Huawei (Their firmware universally sucks, from modems to enterprise/service-level network and backhaul equipment) might be foolish enough to believe they're safer. In reality though, you're more at risk from the security exploits from Huawei's lazy half-assed programmers. I fear their coders more than any possible shadowy relationships.

      And yet, there are hundreds of massive networks having Huawei equipment in core network. Imagine that, their networks actually still run very well, but of course their "firmware" sucks line is certainly very convincing.

      You probably haven't even seen a Huawei enterprise switch.

    • Re:Doubtful Tactic (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @10:27AM (#45174273)

      we don't trust the US or the Chinese

      Don't blame you. As an American, I also don't trust either.

      you're more at risk from the security exploits from Huawei's lazy half-assed programmers

      At least when you find a backdoor in Cisco products, you know it was meant to be a backdoor.

      As an American I'd like to believe the Huawei programmers are incompetent. OTOH it would be very clever to disguise a backdoor as a bug, or turn a bug into a backdoor. Hold it, Microsoft/NSA has already used the latter approach. Damn Chinese just copy our ideas.

  • drivers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @09:06AM (#45173887)

    Dear Huawei chairman,

    open source all of your drivers and firmware, then we'll be forced to agree that your equipment is safe for use.

    • by richlv (778496)

      exactly :)
      while it would not provide full confidence (nothing ever can, reflections on trusting trust), fully opensourcing all code that runs on their hardware would be the only way to inspire trusting them. current initiative is kinda aimed at some governments (and maybe large companies), but the barrier to entry is insanely high (individual researchers or any random person can't participate)

    • Re:drivers (Score:5, Funny)

      by Flytrap (939609) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @09:26AM (#45173945)

      Dear gbjbaanb,

      We will gladly do so... as soon as you also ask the following competitors to do the same:
      - Juniper Networks
      - Cisco
      - 3Com
      - Teledata Networks
      - Netgear
      - Alcatel-Lucent
      - :

      After all, the back doors we have in our switches are the same back doors we inherited from their code when we stole it a few years ago.

      • After all, the back doors we have in our switches are the same back doors we inherited from their code when we stole it a few years ago.

        At least American technology is still ahead.

    • by X.25 (255792)

      Dear Huawei chairman,

      open source all of your drivers and firmware, then we'll be forced to agree that your equipment is safe for use.

      I guess you don't use Cisco equipment either.

      What do you use, actually?

      (let me guess - you run m0n0wall on Soekris, right?)

    • Re:drivers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tom (822) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @10:31AM (#45174293) Homepage Journal

      Nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that.

      First, having the source code doesn't tell you the binary running on the device was actually built from the source code you have in your hands.

      Second, even if you validate the build chain, you don't know what the compiler, linker and other parts of the toolchain have inserted. This is really, really old knowledge, we're talking at least 30 years.

      Third, even if you are sure about the software, you still don't know if there's trickery in the hardware.

      You're certainly better off if you have the source code, but don't ever think that alone solves anything.

      • by cbhacking (979169)

        Exactly. In fact, if I recall a story a few years back correctly, the main concern was not about the firmware but about backdoors built into the silicon. Even if they turned over their HDL files (something no hardware vendor would do), the same problem exists there that it does for software: short of uncapping the chips and examining them in impossible detail, there's no way to know that there wasn't a backdoor inserted into the chip design later in the synthesis (compilation) or manufacturing process anyho

    • Dear Huawei chairman, Open source all your drivers and firmware, And we'll fix it. ftfy.
  • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @09:48AM (#45174043)

    Can Huawei actually gain more customers by playing off the Snowden scandal?"

    Of course they can. In fact, I suspect they already have.

    One of the Cisco et al. selling points was "you can trust us with your data, can you trust Huawei ?" Now that is gone. Loosing a selling point like that, in a competitive market, means that sales will go to the companies it was directed against.

    • I think that you can trust Cisco with your data, at least in the US. Why build backdoors into the equipment when service providers give the NSA open access anyway. It'd be like getting lock picks when they'll just open the door for you.

  • by Reliable Windmill (2932227) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @10:26AM (#45174263)
    You shouldn't be asking "Can Huawei actually gain more customers by playing off the Snowden scandal?", but rather if American vendors can keep their customers in light of the NSA scandal.
  • There is little to no effective difference between an intentional backdoor and a backdoor created by incompetence and shoddy workmanship. Huawei has code quality problems it still needs to work thru.

    I have no doubt as the company matures it is and will do much better.

  • I guess Huawei will start marketing the advantage of their "Water Gap".

    "Our jack-booted thugs are water-gaped from your USA facility, while the same cannot be said of our competitors."

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      Now just hold still as my associates pour this lovely drink down your throat why yes it is almond flavored brandy.
  • Definition of Chutzpah

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