Security optimize

Is Huawei a threat to U.S. national security?

Telecommunications giant Huawei's rapid expansion has prompted fears in the U.S. national security establishment about cyberespionage threats emanating from China. What do IT pros think? Voice your opinion in the poll.

The CBS news program 60 Minutes ran a report on the Chinese company Huawei and the espionage concerns that have prompted an investigation by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. The company, based in Shenzhen, China is the largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment in the world, including switches, gateways, smartphones, tablets, and much more.

National security and government personnel are suspicious of Huawei's motives, already claiming that the company has basically stolen the intellectual property of other technology companies to help fuel its growth. But it is the specter of American businesses allowing the Chinese company to build critical networking infrastructure that has many people alarmed, considering the ever-escalating threat of cyberwarfare.

Their overriding concern is this: that the Chinese government could exploit Huawei's presence on U.S. networks to intercept high level communications, gather intelligence, wage cyber war, and shut down or disrupt critical services in times of national emergency.

If you've been keeping up with this story (see the CBS News report here) or watched the recent 60 Minutes episode (an excerpt is embedded below), what is your take on the Huawei controversy? As an IT pro, do you think there is a national security concern for the U.S. and other countries?

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Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

77 comments
LAGUY88
LAGUY88

The rest is history via bottom line thinkers and the bottom feeders...............!

LAGUY88
LAGUY88

The lender is the Master..................You awoke a Dragon and now you are its feast. GW and friends took us to this Barbecue and we became the main course!

LAGUY88
LAGUY88

Ignorance is Bliss. Too many companies and people are afraid of offending the unaccountability of others. A Thief is a liar and the reverse; simple! R & D cost money and real engineering and thought, stealing is stealing regardless of the source or the culture. Wake up and smell the coffee or just light up another...............and not face Actuality!

chdchan
chdchan

There are points to ponder when trying to curb China involvement in US business and its commodities/products. First and foremost, it is the all-time low prices being enjoyed by US citizens over China goods. Second comes the damages to the mutual beneficial relations having been established and operating well so far. Thirdly, China businesses are important taxpayers and big employers, in a word economic benefactors to US citizens too; protectionistic impacts will be bilateral. Then is the possible retaliation by China. Last but not least, any disputes should be resolved by litigation but not sudden unilateral sanction or displinary actions that are politically advised in such high profile.

chdchan
chdchan

If there has been concrete evidence, so why not the US government sues Hauwei and ZTE for the accusation (or should be allegation)? It would be a lawsuit worths billion or trillion dollar compensation that can lure anyone. Anti-Sino behavior can always find its excuses, and particularly at this election time. Despite the wrath sparked off, this US propaganda is but a thunder without raindrops. Apparently, protectionistic politics has been overidding laws these days even in the western countries.

Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith

Remember when China had a wall built around the land to keep out the "foreign invaders" both physically and culturally - see where that got them, eh ? Well US looks to be heading in the same direction - first, bolster highly uncompetitive, incompetent or corrupt homeland industries like the military industrial complex, the auto industry, the energy sector, HMOs, the financial sector and now the IT sector with tax-payers $$$. Then secondly, make all kinds of excuses to keep out the foreign invaders -- "national security (but phone tapping via LI doesn't count as 'spying' ", "terrorism (Islamic of course - deranged Americans with semi-auto rifles protected by the NRA don't count as 'terrorists') ", "off-shoring", "dangerous Canadian prescription drugs", "dangerous Gucci rip-offs","dangerous European diesels that got 40MPG 20-yrs ago", "dangerous European GSM phones that don't require Qualcomm IP", "dangerous Canadian beef [but Montana beef is OK even though they share the same ecosystem]", "Cuban cigars ['cause American cigars DONT cause cancer]", "". If I had a $ for every foreign product or technology the (corporately funded) government said was "bad for me" and turned out to be complete BS I'd be rich :) Funny how the national news outlets are involved in monetization of fear - first, create a "problem" (cyberthreat from China, WMDs in Iraq) and then immediately advertise a "solution" (ex-McAfee CTO gets his 10-mins of fame to advertise CrowdStrike or whatever data-mining/Cloud technology, Bush clan get their 2nd crack at monetizing foreign oil). Ok, so China steals our IP and we exploit their cheap labour, who has the moral high ground? Peace out.

jhnpf1
jhnpf1

This company has been approved by the current Canadian government to bid on rebuilding some of the most critical security communications infrastructure , RCMP , CSIS , Canadian spy agency and Treasury Board . This move will put our security , as well as our friends and allies at risk and may cause some to place barriers , to protect their national security and isolate Canada from sharing data and information regarding terrorism as well as threatening technology industry from espionage . Northern Telecom was destroyed , in part , by spying since 2001. The Harper regime seems to have no regard for our old friends , until a republican government is elected in the US.

preferred user
preferred user

The saying goes "Sit by the river long enough and your enemies body will float by " China has been sitting on the riverbank a while now!

mbbs
mbbs

I see lots of rumours and FUD, but no evidence. This is in the same order as saying Cisco ships all of his gear with spyware, so that the US can spy on everyone else. If there really would be evidence, lawyers would line up to go to trial and ban the products from the market. So I guess a big part of this is about protectionism. A country cannot be officially protectionistic by closing the borders for certain products, so all kinds of FUD is spread to keep the competitors from the home market.

stillwell.john
stillwell.john

I have a personal web server that I host that has some stuff on it. mostly pictures and books and an HTML5 app I built to let me stream my movies from anywhere to any device. For the past few months I have been getting DDoS'd by some group, I say that because as soon as I block an IP another pops up. The IP's always go back top China. I know that this doesnt mean it is actually someone in china but most likely it is. It also doesnt help that the address range is know worldwide for hosting c-n-c and spam servers. I finally tried changing the port that the site is bound to and they havent bothered me since. I dont know what about this experience bothers me more. The fact that they were trying to attack my server and successfully DDoS'ing me in the process or the fact that they are so incompetent that they dont look for webservers on ports other than 80. I have seen the same behavior on every network I have ever supported. They are basically out there port scanning the world and probing for vulnerabilities. Like others have said they are looking for IP to steal and reverse engineer. I am confident that there are many good honest people in China but unless they open source the code I dont trust it on my network.

kevlar700
kevlar700

Well actually a backdoor was confirmed in Huawei digital telephone switches (audio) installed by the UK. Fortunately they were firewalled off. Cisco devices haven't got a briliant security track record either but good performance. Critical infrastructure should use home-compiled (open source OS) on well considered programmable hardware.

g-w-l
g-w-l

When seeing the whole scenario from Europe, I often hear huge mistrust about Web-cloud based services, based in US and perhaps controlled by paranoid american official and secret services. Our private stuff controlled by american officials!!! Unforgivable and a violation of all democratic rights. (I don't hear voices from the american society about this violation...) But now perhaps the paranoid Chinese officials and secret services are controlling american citizens private stuff - now we hear responses... It is not forgivable in any case, somebody in 2012 is so extreme mental retarded and full of mistrust, they have to control citizen and companies in own and other countries. People with very low self-esteem need to control their surroundings. Small Chinese officials, small American officials, small European officials - and secret services - all of them needing control, to feel they are important. Old fashion belief systems are still in place and Rules more important then human beings. As we stand at the precipice, though on step back also advances....

dgoodale
dgoodale

Sure, I agree we should do everything we can to keep China out of our networks. BUT, I have a smart TV, a Blue Ray player, and several other pieces of technology in my home that connect to the internet. Who's to say there isn't ALREADY code in those devices to make them into remote controlled bots when the right time comes? We already get poison flip flops, dog food, baby food, sheet rock, etc. from China. Seems to me that we've been in a war for a while now, it just hasn't been declared. Once it HAS been declared, we'll find out what's lurking in those electronics, as well.

kiwiak
kiwiak

In all things security of communications is paramont. It doesnt matter if it is a personal email, a business document or military communications, the security of the transmission is paramont. I cannot see being in a war where a potential enemy has control of your communications network as being a good thing. Nor a business situation where you are developing new technology. There are no guarantees that this would not become a problem. And watching the 60 min show Huawei was doing nothing to dispel that fear. In fact their secrecy was adding to it.

DDS 34 yrs
DDS 34 yrs

The Chinese People's Republic's Army is the conduit for such information and is the giant squid in China. My major concern is that the House of Representatives is so corrupt and beholding to outside money that it may influence our take on complicated security issues. This is not new in America.

griswald.goulton
griswald.goulton

Huawei is owned by the people who work there, not something the money end of town would go for.

braunmax
braunmax

US monitors communication links worldwide - incl Australia, New Zealand, all of Europe, US and many other countries. As the point is made - the world is now smaller, there seems to be little issue about US companies manufacturing in China... seems the world economic and spy games are levelling. And all of this is based on an assumption or a concern, with as yet limited basis in fact. Surely some packet tracking software to check packets at points along such a communication route is technologically feasible. I read this as a scare tactic in congress allied to economic "protectionism" to circumvent globalisation and free trade philosophies that the world has accepted.

DAS01
DAS01

Ben, please provide some evidence for this project and Huawei's apparent copying of (old!) Cisco switches.

chdchan
chdchan

Beyond any doubt, the anti-Sino politics has furthered its influence to the business arena. So far the official accusation has not been backed up by necessary evidence revelation, but it spreads pan-america like a religious belief. It seems this cases are deliberately fabricated in time for public mind cohesion amid electorate canvassing.

melekali
melekali

The Chinese Communist government can never be trusted by anyone. If they are making IT equipment, we ought not be buying it at all.

NightLife6
NightLife6

Once had a senior vp for sys development/security from the Global IT company tell me that to stay competitive they used HW from global sources like everyone else and it would be cost prohibitive to R/E the items as they would be out of date before it would be completed. FYI – greatest HW threat I witnessed was originated from one of our strongest allies??? Moral is to trust no one and take necessary precautions on all systems regardless of where it comes from.

mrjohnpro2
mrjohnpro2

Non critical ..fine ..otherwise treat as suspicious. Cheap Trojan horses are not even worth considering with national security infrastructure. btw I do enjoy dim sims Jp

craigkra
craigkra

Assuming that the accusations are true, you could substitute the names of a large number of US companies for Huawei and everything would seem normal. Associations with the Chinese military are evidence of involvement in espionage - well now, that seems to ring a bell doesn't it? Oh yes, I remember - the "US military-industrial complex" (Pres. Eisenhower) The owner doesn`t give interviews so that makes him suspicious. Watch out! Howard Hughes must have been a US spy!! One of the commentators said that everything was stolen from Cisco - just like Samsung and Apple!?! wouldn't you say:?". In addition, it seems that Huawei is the only one producing certain items and their products are also described as "innovative" so they are actually producing their own technology. On a more detailed level, the accusations are absolutely speculative, something like: "Well, why wouldn't they do it?". One of the accusations is about the ideology of economic choices. So if the Chinese Government chooses to organize its economy by having government funding of national technology (see also South Korea and Japan) then that makes them suspicious. We can shortly expect the Chinese intelligence equivalent of the CIA to make statements in the Chinese press about the US choice to organise their economy on the basis of private ownership of companies which then sign contracts with the US military. The real situation seems to be as follows. No US companies produce all the equipment for 4G and so the US is dependent on three European and two Chinese companies so let's choose China and not our "allies" in the European Union and use the suspicion we have already generated in a whole host of previous rumour mongering about the Chines military threat to try and damage the competition encountered by Cisco. It seems like "business as usual". The real rulers of the United States put their mouthpieces in Congress into action to protect their profits.

iTrucker
iTrucker

Well... my point is easy... You don??t trust the Chinese... or anybody else ? What is the big problem ? If you really is that scared then don??t you develope the hardware yourself ? Ohh... I forgot... it is cheaper to let the Chinese develope all your hardware... Basically, make your own hardware...

Mavric102
Mavric102

I worked for both Ericsson and Alcatel/Lucent. Both of these companies developed the technologies that compete against Huawei. Some of the products were developed in-house and others through acquisition. Ericsson had purchased Marconi (subsequently FORE Systems) and moved the US HQ to Texas while keeping Global HQ in Stockholm. Great company who treated their employees very well. Just before the acquisition of Marconi and the merger of Alcatel/Lucent, Huawei was trying to establish a route to the US markets by OEM hardware to private label to anyone who would compete with Cisco. Their prices were ridiculously low resulting in very large margins for the organization. I am glad that our leadership realized that a short term competitive advantage was not worth the cost of chipping away at Cisco and possibly US Cyber Security. It is hard for me to believe Huawei is just another "business in the business of doing business" as their ambassador stated in the 60 Minutes interview. They are currently in 150 markets and will surround us until we are outflanked. As IT professionals, we need to be aware of the threats from Huawei and I support any investigation of their motives. Imagine getting your next version update that simply disables your entire Huawei communications network. Hmmmmm......

just1opinion
just1opinion

This is exactly why defense related equipment historically cost more. In addition to higher military specs, it had to be manufactured here. This issue isn't just with networking equipment. They manufacture most of the semiconductors in the world. All our technology is vulnerable to this threat. Nobody wanted to listen all these years because it was "good for business". Now I just want to give everybody a great big I TOLD YOU SO. We'll never learn because we're too greedy and short-sighted.

maisenberg
maisenberg

As someone who has been around this space for 38 years, including much engagement in/with China (placing VeriSign's .com/.net server in Beijing and being the apologist to the Congress and Bush Admin.), it is quite simple to me: when it comes to protecting our strategic ICT supply chain, we have a clear process on the outbound side-the EAA?ITAR, requiring an individually validated license for those few technologies we would actually sell to China. Under such a system, WHY in heavens name (or, to channel Sec. Kissinger) "vhy vud ve effer BUY strategic technologies from a nation to whom ve vuld refuse to SELL strategic technologies ??!!"

kennpetty
kennpetty

The US invented telecommunications, Photographic Cameras, VCRs, Television, Computer chips, etc. We started outsourcing our "cheap and easy production due to cheaper labor costs" in all these things to a lil' ol' country known as Japan. Within 20 years we no longer manufactured hardly any of these things and all were owned by Japanese companies. Not good for US workers but no national security threat because Japan was an ally of the US. China is doing the same thing but they are NOT an ally of the US and have made that clear. They celebrate and praise people who steal intelectual property from the west and have taken the production of solar pannels, flat screen video displays, tablet pcs, pcs, and many other things over the same way Japan did BUT they do not have a vested interest in keeping us happy as they are not an ally. They will steal our IP and there is every reason to believe they will program in kill switches and backdoors into the software and hardware they develop because it will give them incredible power. They have centuries of experience with the western powers exploiting China and bullying China and very l-o-n-g memory, to justify this behavior. I do not think they will hesitate to use the power if they have it either. They stole billions of dollars and years worth of research from JPL to jump their space program ahead by decades -a most cost effective and extremely expedicious path to manned space flight and ICBM development. They will do this into the future and they behave like a corporation than is also a country- a corporation with the world's largest standing army and nuclear weapons. So, no I do not think it is wise to "trust" them with the information pipeline for the world.

gary6003
gary6003

We have already spread our wealth around the world. China being the biggest recipient because of unfair business and trade practices. Why does the US continue to buy most everything from China. I have yet to see a high quality product of any kind from China. Much of their food, like fish, are grown in extremely dirty water that carries parasites. The Flu comes from China. etc. Bring the IT manufacturing back to the US. If they become a telecomm service provider or an ISP, it gives them access to much confidential information sniffing the lines, identifying business secrets from corporations, etc. If allowed, this could be one the worst things to happen to the internet. Internet access is controlled by the country. Shall we trust Huawei to adhere to our laws, compete fairly, and not violate individual privacy?

stacydsullivan
stacydsullivan

How is it spying when you own outright? US needs to realize the borrower is slave to the lender. Too little too late USA.

lskong
lskong

anti-trust. or is that two words....

rhon
rhon

If I were in the shoes of chinese leaders I would counter immediately by telling telling the US public that the real danger to National security is not China or its companies but the fact that the concerned politicians who wrote the report are highly incompetent people. A day before the elections I would issue a statement that China would stop buying debt and would diversify its interest. Now that would teach the politicians a real lesson as the dollar would plunge to an all time low and the creditworthiness of the US would go down the drain. It is almost pathetic that politicians try to make a scapegoat out of a company. Microsoft and Oracle are bigger threats to China than Huawei to the US.

dlstines
dlstines

The more we continue to give away, the more we will continue to lose. We need to wake up and take things back, become leaders again.

rmdesign
rmdesign

This is about the US abdicating its desire to compete in the world. Our schools are starved for resources, starved of adept and challenging minded teachers, and overburdened with non-educational requirements. Thus our finest technical schools are filled with students from abroad who know how to study and how to innovate. When the US again funds education it may have the intellectual resources to match wits with the rest of the world.

it-support
it-support

Why the worry about threat now? Crack open a Cisco ASA and look inside, Foxconn chips. This is a security appliance, yet the chips come from China, not the US. I think if they were going to compromise us, it has all ready been done.

Tyree
Tyree

If you're keeping up with the press you already know Huawei is copying larger players line for line when it comes to code. I don't know why the larger players aren't going after Huawei in court. Anyway, the point is, I can't afford to take the risk. If I use Huawei, and they steal my data, then I am responsible, not Huawei. We don't access military or research labs but we do access other federal databases. We don't have the budget to audit every piece of hardware. We have to use what is normally trusted, not something with suspicions. How much cheaper can it be and is the risk worth it.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Only real problem with it though is that the Organization that did the Security Check got all of it's information from the US and as such the finial decision is suspect. ;) Col

chdchan
chdchan

There are no problems with proper learning from others, but sometimes China do have sheer copycat of homework by the US. Remember those raised at the time of Cultural Revolution have just made to the top these days in the business sectors.

Gisabun
Gisabun

The Harper regimre allowed them in because of the number of jobs created. That's all they seem to care about. Now since the US government decided not to do business with them the Canadian government is having second thoughts as well.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

the WE developed. it's cheaper to manufacture over there, but you must realize that many of their scientists are trained HERE, and many of them are employed HERE, by US companies

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

i know we (US) didn't invent photography, that was that li'l ole country, France (Daguerre, sp?) has that honor. we already get a bad rap for claiming what we shouldn't and by the way, henry ford didn't invent the production line

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Europeans had done the early work on telegraphs, telephones, and radios before anyone in the US even thought about getting involved, and then it was mostly European migrants. The Europeans had working telegraphs and telephones decades before they did in the USA, it's just that the US people went about lodging patents first, mostly on the work of others - many of Edison's patents were for work done by Tesla.

JCitizen
JCitizen

********************* TARIFF!! **************************** Nasty deeds deserve nasty retribution. I'm not saying putting a tariff on all PRC goods, just from the companies that don't play fair - providing if there are any left that do play fair - that is. Congress is always looking for revenue; heck they got it right under their noses. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for "free trade" - unless it ain't.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

If the dollar was devalued then China would not be as competitive in the manufacturing area and that would lead to more manufacturing being done in the US. That would kind of kill China's economy. That is one of the reasons that there has been so much press about the value of China's currency and that people believe that China purposely sets the price lower than it should be. Bill

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

most of edison's patents were for work done by his employees. they signed away their rights just to get a job.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and it shows what an immoral thieving set of laws they had then that it was possible.