Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Huawei Question

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  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Paul G. Buchanan,

    That cherry picked "evidence" was provided to the hapless Colin Powell, who was kept out of the loop by Tenet and so believed that the cut and paste reports that he was provided represented the true thoughts of the analytic community.

    Poor old Colon, whose legacy depends on his not being all that smart.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Paul G. Buchanan,

    He may have strong reason to support the Huawei contracts, but it would be good to hear how he came to that position in light of the suspicions about Huawei serving as a SIGINT front of the PRC.

    Maybe it came down to "On the one hand we have the CIA/NSA and their lap-dogs at the ASIO, and on the other hand we have GCHQ/MI5. There's no clear consensus within the supreme members of the Western intelligence community that Huawei equipment is a viable threat to national security, and we are a small, poor country with limited funds. If it's good enough for the Brits it's good enough for us."

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3733 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    OK, who leaked the security committee paper? Form an orderly line.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15741 posts Report Reply

  • Lew Stoddart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Maybe it came down to ... "If it’s good enough for the Brits it’s good enough for us.”

    If that's the case, or if it's "we just think ASIO are full of shit", per Mark Harris' argument, or something else, I would welcome an appropriately diplomatic statement from the minister or the PM to that effect.

    L

    Wellington, NZ • Since Aug 2010 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Paul G. Buchanan,

    Matthew Poole:

    Lets hope that your hypothetical proves more or less correct. For what it is worth, on the UK side of things, the issue appears slightly more complicated than a straight thumbs up for Huawei. Take, for example, this report (hat tip to a commentator on the Kiwiblog thread dedicated to the subject):

    "BRITAIN’S intelligence services were forced to erect a costly, resource-intensive auditing structure to ensure Huawei did not steal secrets after the Chinese telco was allowed to take part in a British broadband project.

    As Foreign Minister Bob Carr moved to soothe tensions with Beijing, encouraging Huawei to expand its commercial operations in Australia in lieu of lucrative National Broadband Network contracts, the country’s top signals intelligence expert, Des Ball, said yesterday there was “no doubt” Huawei partnered with China’s espionage services.

    Professor Ball, of Australian National University, said officers from Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, the country’s top signals intelligence agency, had told him they had to check all the servers, routers, chips and hardware installed by Huawei after the company was allowed to take part in a large-scale broadband project in Britain. “And they still don’t have any guarantee they picked everything up,” he said.

    Sources have told The Australian the British experience, and in particular the auditing impost on intelligence services, was a major factor in the decision to exclude Huawei from the NBN."

    For the record, Desmond Ball is a world class security analyst, and I would doubt that he would take kindly to being labeled a corporate shill.

    Anyway, more grist for the mill, particularly because the security vetting in the UK happened after (at great cost), rather than before Huawei was awarded IT contracts there. Perhaps that is what is happening or is supposed to happen in NZ because the National government believes that even with the costs of ex post forensic auditing the overall cost of the Huawei contracts are less than the bids of other competitors.

    If that is the case, then presumably the GCSB/SIS will be up to the job.

    Singapore/NZ • Since Apr 2011 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    "There’s no clear consensus within the supreme members of the Western intelligence community that Huawei equipment is a viable threat to national security, and we are a small, poor country with limited funds. If it’s good enough for the Brits it’s good enough for us."

    It’s hardly just Britain. They’re big in Canada and have 31 local subsidiaries in Europe.

    And they now have 1000+ employees in the US, where they’re active in the major standards groups, a member of various local chambers of commerce and the like.

    They’re also able to put this on their corporate brag sheet:

    • Ranked the fifth most innovative company in the world by Fast Company magazine (Feb 2010)
    • Received the 2009 IEEE Standards Association Corporate Award (2009)
    • Named by BusinessWeek as one of the world’s most influential companies (Dec 2008)
    • Listed as one of the World’s Most Respected Companies compiled by The Reputation Institute and published by Forbes magazine (May 2007)

    The idea that this is some pariah company is just unsustainable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17969 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The idea that this is some pariah company is just unsustainable.

    I also find the core assumption that China is the 'enemy' rather the same.

    We do drink that USG supplied jungle juice rather easily still.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    A few more or less techy points:
    - what is being acquired is an Internet access network. The Internet is *defined* as insecure, unreliable delivery of IP packets - anything else, you can put a layer on, like SSL.

    - there is a possibility that embedded malware could disrupt the control/billing/routing segment and cause a denial of service - that can't be layered against.

    - it's also possible that Western network companies put backdoors in their products for NSA/GCHQ and these agencies wish to limit the use of kit that doesn't have such backdoors

    - the more open source and local content in the system, the less vulnerable it would be to attack from all angles.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4219 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Paul G. Buchanan,

    Just one small correction to what seems to be a general belief.

    Thanks Paul. I started a post along these lines and then gave up and went home :) What seemed truly remarkable in 2002/3 was the number of UK and US intelligence sources and ex-intelligence people speaking out- sometimes directly in the media- against case trotted out in the build-up to the Iraq invasion. It was surreal.
    ETA: and Rich- yes!

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1354 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    I also find the core assumption that China is the 'enemy' rather the same.

    Ditto.

    And even if we were an enemy I'd question the utility of China subsidising Huawei to set up a highly sophisticated (heretofore untraceable) spy system in New Zealand.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    It was surreal.

    And ignored. The Guardian had a whole exposé on the supposed chem-warfare trailers that Powell touted so loudly at the UN six months before he wandered on to the stage towards ignominy.

    They had diagrams of the construction, images, and an analysis from the Cambridge company that made them (under Thatcher era UK MOD contract) which explained what they were (for weather forecasting) and what they were capable of: i.e. not being turned into WMD labs.

    One assumes that the vast US/UK security apparatus actually reads the papers and/or had access to the same or better information that the reporter did, and likely passed on that analysis - for it to be pushed aside.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    And even if we were an enemy I'd question the utility of China subsidising Huawei to set up a highly sophisticated (heretofore untraceable) spy system in New Zealand.

    I guess the answer to that would be that they hoped to access US intel networks via us, but mostly the assumption is, yes, semi-delusional.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to JacksonP,

    but there appears to be a directionality in the approach of businesses in China towards greater transparency.

    Yep. A few too many food safety scandals or chemical plants planned for very close to and upwind of residential areas, among other things. Technology seems to be helping - what with SMS and Twitter (now banned, but we've still got Weibo and other copycats) there was no hiding the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake like they did with Tangshan back in '76. There's a long long ways to go, though.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • James George,

    Oh that's all right then it wasn't the analysts at the CIA who claimed Iraq was chocka with WMD, it was just the head of the CIA, who described the likelihood of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction as a slam dunk.
    Tenet was no outsider parachuted into the agency either. He had been in the Washington intelligence game since 1986 after graduating from that breeding ground of spook scum, Georgetown Uni.
    Sure a few retired agency hands muttered about the WMD issue, but go back to the NY Times coverage in 02 and 03 and you'll find plenty of 'old hands' also running the BushCo line, so it is misleading to claim that the spooks were united in their opposition to the wmd issue.
    Pat Lang is typical of the breed. After claiming to want peace and not war in the ME, he changes his tune once it becomes apparent the septics couldn't win a chook raffle and instigates the strategy that killed a million Iraqis and made 4 million more refugees in Syria and Jordan. That was when the US by way of paid agents and their own false flag attacks cranked up the sectarian conflict, to get Iraqis fighting each other rather than the invader.

    That sectarian split has been encouraged to spread outside Iraq's borders by US spooks eager to 'control' the Arab spring. Iraqis who understand precisely how awful things can get for Syria if outside forces arm any of the Syrian sectarian militias, have called a summit to get the Syrians talking to each other, with the support of the other nations in the region. But that would stymie Israel/US foreign policy. Consequently US spooks have been arm twisting, bribing, and blackmailing to keep their Sunni 'mates' away from the summit.
    Can't be having peace lest no one buys our guns, is the kindest rationale to come to mind.
    Doubtless the minority Sunni government of Bahrain, the one who hired Saudi thugs to invade Bahrain and rape teenage schoolgirls for the crime of reading poetry during the Bahrain Arab Spring last year, will be at the forefront of those nations who claim to be making an ethical stance against Shia political participation.

    The wikileaks docs dump showed us that the US is complicit in these acts far more than they pretend. Intelligence workers willingly gather truths, half-truths and complete bulldust every day; knowing that their 'product' will be used to ruin the lives of innocents across this planet, yet we are supposed to salute and go yessir, nossir, three bags full sir, when they tell us to buy equipment that just 'happens' to be made and sold by the country they do this dirty work for? Yeah right. That sounds fair.

    Since Sep 2007 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    This article, the Iraq part of which refers pretty heavily to and draws from the 2004 Flood Report, is pretty damning on the 21st Century performance of the Australian Intel community.

    On Iraq:

    The report found systemic weaknesses contributed to “a failure of intelligence” by ONA – which had assessed that Iraq “must have WMD” – and, to a lesser extent, DIO. These weaknesses included “a failure to rigorously challenge preconceptions” and the absence of a “consistent and rigorous culture of challenge to and engagement with intelligence reports”. Flood pointed to a lack of dialogue between agencies and said “broader analysis … was largely absent”. The inquiry found “inconsistency in assessments, unclear presentation [and] lack of precision” and concluded: “the pool of analytical skills backed by technical and scientific knowledge is shallow.”

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to James George,

    Pat Lang is typical of the breed

    This is Pat Lang's essay on the invasion of Iraq. I'm not sure it tallies with your assessment of him. You can also find it on various anti-war sites - Democratic Underground for example.

    It's a fascinating and devastating attack on the US intel system and the administration from someone who, as you say, is an insider.

    What we have on our hands now is a highly corrupted system of intelligence and policymaking, one twisted to serve specific group goals, ends, and beliefs held to the point of religious faith. Is this different than the situation would have been in previous administrations? Yes. The intelligence community, and by this I mean the information collection and analysis functions, not the “James Bond” covert action activities, which should properly be in other parts of the government. The intelligence community has as its assigned task the business of describing reality as best it understands it. The policy staffs and politicals in the government have the task of creating a new reality, more to their taste.

    Nevertheless, it is “understood” by the government “pros” as opposed to the zealots that a certain restraint must be observed by the policy “crowd” in dealing with the intelligence folk because without objective truth, decisions are based on subjective drivel. Wars result from such “drivel.” We are in the midst of one at present

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to James George,

    Can't be having peace lest no one buys our guns, is the kindest rationale to come to mind

    The other one is that Israel vehemently doesn't want any Arab state (especially one of her neighbours) to evolve into a stable, strong democracy with an military focused on national defence rather than internal repression.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4219 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Lew Stoddart,

    I would welcome an appropriately diplomatic statement from the minister or the PM to that effect.

    You mean something upon these lines --

    "New Zealand is a sovereign nation whose government receives - and assesses - advice from many sources, foreign and domestic on a daily basis. While we value our long-standing good relations with allies like Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom we will make our own decisions about our economic and infrastructural security."

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Again, I don't even pretend to understand likelihoods and technicalities, so I'm not going to say anything, except that 'Thoughts on the Huawei kerfuffle' by Vikram Kumar of Internet NZ is interesting.

    As to China and the US? I rather like foreign policy position taken by others, and one NZ pretended to take for just a couple of years, of having "many friends and no enemies", or at the very least minor-power neutrality. Whatever decision NZ takes should be in its own interest, and not from a desire to satiate the narrowly defined interests of the US foreign policy cabal, or a false perception that pragmatic dealings with China mean stepping around all sensitive issues.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2078 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    And some nuanced insight by the Granny's Andrew Laxon on the issue.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3907 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to George Darroch,

    I rather like foreign policy position taken by others, and one NZ pretended to take for just a couple of years, of having “many friends and no enemies”, or at the very least minor-power neutrality.

    Absolutely agreed.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The Guardian's story is useful:

    In the UK, BT reiterated its confidence in Huawei, and said that it was able to examine source code for products to check for "back doors" or eavesdropping functions.

    It said in a statement: "BT's relationship with Huawei and other suppliers is managed strictly in accordance with UK laws and security best practice. BT's network is underpinned by robust security controls and built-in resilience. We continue to work closely with all our suppliers and the government, where appropriate, to ensure that the security of the network is not compromised."

    Australia's former foreign minister Alexander Downer, who is an independent director on the board of Huawei's Australian unit, rejected the government's security concerns. "This sort of whole concept of Huawei being involved in cyberwarfare, presumably that would just be based on the fact that the company comes from China. This is just completely absurd," he told ABC Radio.

    But even if it is, there are those in the west who are reluctant to put aside their mistrust for now.

    But Huawei is likely to have the last laugh. While Ericsson sold its half-share in the loss-making Sony Ericsson mobile phone business in October 2011, Huawei has just ventured into the handheld business – and analysts already expect it to undercut rivals such as Taiwan's HTC. This week's setbacks for Huawei may not be its last, but the company is by no means finished with its ambition.

    The more I read and think about this story, the less I'm able to believe that Huawei is really a bad actor as alleged. The companies with which it forms partnerships, and the role it plays in standards bodies, just don't tally with that view.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17969 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The more I read and think about this story, the less I’m able to believe that Huawei is really a bad actor as alleged. The companies with which it forms partnerships, and the role it plays in standards bodies, just don’t tally with that view.

    If it’s not xenophobia, then it might be plutophobia or whatever sociologists call it.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3907 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I'd see the Chinese 'patriotic' hackers as being an online equivalent to the football thugs that used to travel from England to various foreign countries dumb enough to host them at soccer, and then battle the locals and cops.

    The UK government put in various measures to stop them, like banning convicted thugs from getting passports and tipping off overseas states to turn them round at the airport.

    Maybe if the Chinese government see hacking as a threat to their exports, they'll introduce effective measures against the hackers. (Hopefully proportionate ones rather than murder and torture).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4219 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to DeepRed,

    And some nuanced insight by the Granny’s Andrew Laxon on the issue.

    The bug could then send anything on the network to an overseas website, which would relay the information to a more secret site.

    All without attracting any attention from network operations folk who might, maybe, possibly, wonder why their outbound traffic flows suddenly went through the roof?

    Seriously, a network tap doesn't magic its data flows to the recipient, someone has to provide the bandwidth. A network-wide tap will generate significant volumes of data, and operators notice these things because suddenly their bandwidth is woefully inadequate. You cannot hide a network-wide tap, or even an indiscriminate tap on a single major client, for reasons not least of which is that the accountants will eventually spot the discrepancies between what's billed and what's purchased. Huawei might be providing the equipment for the segments closest to the customers, but the core of the network, the part that handles routing to the internet and packet capture for billing, will most likely be running stuff made by Cisco or Juniper, "good" American companies who aren't going to quietly get into bed with a foreign espionage operation.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3733 posts Report Reply

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