Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Huawei Question

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    A couple of points:

    - firstly, there has been evidence of government linked hacking from China, which is antisocial at the least. If the Chinese governments sees this resulting in it's exporters losing business, they might start playing more nicely.

    - secondly, I think it's a general problem that NZ telcos are basically marketing operations with the smart stuff contracted to overseas systems providers and the digging of holes done by Aussie labour hire outfits. If they moved the line down a bit, we might get better results in a few areas - confidence in network security would be one of them.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4422 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Siu,

    At least on the consumer front, Huawei-branded routers and modems have been part of the major telecos broadband package for a number of years now....

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 74 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    firstly, there has been evidence of government linked hacking from China, which is antisocial at the least. If the Chinese governments sees this resulting in it’s exporters losing business, they might start playing more nicely.

    There's no doubt that the Chinese government is behind the hacking attacks by individuals. The question is whether there is any link to Huawei's technology.

    secondly, I think it’s a general problem that NZ telcos are basically marketing operations with the smart stuff contracted to overseas systems providers and the digging of holes done by Aussie labour hire outfits. If they moved the line down a bit, we might get better results in a few areas – confidence in network security would be one of them.

    It's not even faintly possible that NZ companies could build these networks on their own, without large, specialised international vendors.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18715 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Regarding back-doors, there's no way to prove the absence of such things, but I feel happy to use the systems nonetheless, because I very much doubt I'll ever justify anyone using the backdoor on me, just on the off chance that it's existence becomes known. It would need to be one massive secret that they extracted to justify the fact that their security equipment stock would very rapidly become worthless, as would their reputation. It's also likely that there could be massive law suits against the company, and if credible information came to light that they were working with the Chinese government on this it would cause enormous ramifications for Chinese international relations.

    I'd be surprised if there's any secret in all of NZ big enough for them to risk exposing the back door, if there is one.

    But, if you're really worried, then don't rely solely on hardware encryption for whatever secrets you are trying to keep. Encrypt at several layers with products from different vendors.

    Governments can worry about this for me. Encryption secrets are considered weaponry. There are legions of nerds working full time testing the security of various systems and algorithms, for whatever all that encryption is really worth.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8318 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think it's a given that the NSA has gone over the source code in Huawei hardware with a fine-toothed comb, but there doesn't seem to be anything there.

    Without meaning to reduce your main points, I wouldn't presume the NSA and its friends would necessarily tell anyone if it'd found a useful back-door in a set of widely deployed network communications products. An independent commercial organisation might.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 319 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I don't think there needs to be a link to Huawei - the Chinese government want to export stuff, especially stuff that's up the tech ladder. If they see hacking as an obstacle to this, they might stop.

    It's not even faintly possible that NZ companies could build these networks on their own, without large, specialised international vendors.

    I'm not suggesting we make routers from sand up. What we can do is have some control and knowledge over what's being built.

    Look at Telecom's failures with CDMA and then XT. The root cause of those was having dumped almost all technical skill and knowledge in favour of picking a solution ready rolled from overseas. The first attempt was a market failure (cheap, nasty, failing standard) and the second a technical failure (inappropriate scalability and no fallback). A company that knew what it was doing wouldn't make these mistakes.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4422 posts Report Reply

  • David R,

    Call me simple but I believe profit trumps idealogy everytime.

    AKL • Since Sep 2008 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Look at Telecom’s failures with CDMA and then XT. The root cause of those was having dumped almost all technical skill and knowledge in favour of picking a solution ready rolled from overseas.

    In the case of XT, the problem was poor decisions within Telecom, at executive and board level. The RNCs from Alcatel Lucent worked fine, the network basically didn’t have enough of them. Management didn’t forecast demand, went too early with marketing, etc. As Peter Griffin summarized the independent report, Telecom wasn’t ready for showtime.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18715 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Gordon Campbell spews out a whole lot of circumstantial evidence, ignoring pretty much everything that doesn’t suit his case, to reach the conclusion:

    The Australians have got it right this time. Plainly, Huawei should be barred from any future role in building our telco infrastructure.

    He cites as reason for such a ban the claims (originally in the WSJ) that Huawei provided monitoring equipment to the regime in Iran. It was certainly, like other companies, selling mobile network gear to Iran. Another Chinese company, ZTE, certainly sold a nationwide telecomms surveillance system to the regime. There’s very good documentary evidence of that.

    There are first-person reports of Huawei’s sales people telling Iran they were good at censoring news feeds, being from China, but that’s not the same thing as surveillance systems.

    But Huawei’s denial was pretty comprehensive. And according to Alexander Downer the company hasn’t ever manufactured or conducted R&D on filtering or surveillance tech – which would seem pretty easy to disprove if it wasn’t true.

    It looks like the bottom line is more important anyway – they scaled down sharply in Iran after it became an issue:

    Some Huawei executives in Shenzhen see operations in Iran as jeopardizing expansion opportunities in the U.S. and Europe, where the Chinese company has faced skepticism over its compliance procedures and dealings with countries that have pariah regimes. That was a driving factor behind the decision to dial back operations in Iran, a person familiar with the matter said.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18715 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Management didn’t forecast demand, went too early with marketing, etc

    From talking to people at Telecom, nobody in the senior management structure knew the difference between an RNC and an office chair. Their assumption was that they picked a supplier, ticked a few boxes and a working system would materialise.

    (Vodafone *do* actually have some level of inhouse expertise, albeit overseas and have had visibly less technical problems).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4422 posts Report Reply

  • George Pollard,

    Based upon the quality of the Huawei router supplied by Vodafone, I'd support a ban on them being involved in any critical infrastructure. :)

    Wellington • Since Oct 2007 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    We certainly need some clarity on this, rather than scare-mongering, Smacks of Yellow Cable Peril.

    For a moment there I was thinking of ‘Yellow Peril 2.0’, but it's a red herring. In any case, the signal-to-noise ratio is still too shrill to draw any concrete conclusion.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4158 posts Report Reply

  • Roger, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Got a note to say that high-speed broadband will be passing by our house within days.

    Lucky bugger. Still no word on when it gets to my suburb in Auckland.

    Don't hold your breath! I got my fibre-sticking-out-of-yellow-conduit at the end of my drive in early December. It is still not possible to get a connection yet though, as I am informed that none of the ISPs have managed to get a contract with Chorus.

    Or at least that is what I am being told.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    1. You don't have to expose a backdoor in order to use it

    2. Work on the basis that any and all equipment can be exploited - act accordingly

    3. Test the gear you get rather than worry about hypotheticals.

    4. The Search and Surveillance legislation will have far more effect on NZ security than any potential Chinese spying.

    5. Anything coming from the USG should be treated as a corporate ploy; any thing from ASIO should be treated skeptically because a) their heads are up the US's bum and b) their proven level of competence is not high.

    6. Politicians, however, only know what their officials tell them, and the officials at this time will be keen to have a situation that justifies not cutting their budgets.

    Paul, I appreciate your long experience but you're not on a winner this time. If the reporter was able to misquote you like that, you gave him the ammunition by drawing the connection to Echelon, which we both know was spurious.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1885 posts Report Reply

  • Scott Chris,

    [Norman]I can’t really go into it to be honest. Because I’m on the intelligence and security committee, I have to rely on what’s publicly available when I give comment about this. It’s actually illegal for me to talk about what goes on in the committee

    Oh gimme a break. I really do wish the Greens would focus on rational environmental issues rather than pandering to society’s paranoid xenophobes.

    If there’s evidence that Huawei is jeopardizing its huge revenue and reputation by embedding cyberbugs into the cable network, then Norman should put up or shut up.

    My scepticism that there is any truth behind the innuendo rests on the assumption that if palpable evidence exists implicating Huawei in any kind of espionage, why or how would it be suppressed? Too many interested parties would be falling over themselves to leak the details.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    I'm calling the Greens, Labour and Winston responses to the Shanghai Pengxin/Crafar farms saga Yellow Peril writ large and hysterical. I'm calling the same on the Greens jumping up and down about Huawei. (major tangent, if I may be permitted: am I really the only Kiwi who noticed Tim Groser led a trade delegation to China and told an influential Chinese business mag he wants more Chinese investment in NZ dairy, forestry and renewable energy, among other things? Prepare for more frothing at the mouth should the Greens, Labour and Winston get wind of that)

    And thank you, Mr Ranapia, for reminding us of NZ's long and distinguished history of anti-Asian and specifically anti-Chinese racism. It is long since time we stopped allowing our politicians to get away with that shit.

    I'm with Russell in that the pronouncements of Aus and US intelligence agencies should be taken with a hefty grain of salt considering firstly whose interests they are charged with looking after, secondly the US desire to contain China and maintain it's position at the top of the heap, and thirdly the recent history of rejection of proposed purchases of US companies by companies from 'politically sensitive' countries, cultures, religions or ethnicities (CNOOC, Dubai (?am I remembering that right?) Ports).

    Oh, and I'm wondering, given their fear and loathing of China, if the Greens are happy to buy Cisco products. Cisco, after all, has been known to sell equipment to China that both allows the internet to function and allows the government to censor the internet. It's also interesting to note that Microsoft services are generally freely and easily available from this side of the GFW, whereas many Google services are not.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2011 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Scott Chris,

    Well said, sir.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2011 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    The Search and Surveillance legislation will have far more effect on NZ security than any potential Chinese spying

    Yet guess which the media will climb all over? Hence the importance of political players being careful how they discuss such matters.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16495 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    I’m calling the Greens, Labour and Winston responses to the Shanghai Pengxin/Crafar farms saga Yellow Peril writ large and hysterical. I’m calling the same on the Greens jumping up and down about Huawei.

    You know, I'm not disagreeing with you on this particular issue, but I would like to reserve the right to express concerns about the Chinese government (or one or another of their companies) and their actions without being called a Yellow Peril-shouting racist.

    Just like I would like to be able to criticise the Israeli government without being called a Jew-hater.

    Maybe its harder to differentiate in the case of China since the same word ( the Chinese ) is used to describe both the people and the government.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    This is just kowtowing to the paranoid racist panicings of the US and Australia.
    We are being told that “Dem Chinamen are inscrutably unscrupulous and insidiously indubitably dangerous slopey eyed monsters” by the very people that do This Shit

    Canal Plus, which is owned by the French media giant Vivendi Universal, claims to have evidence that NDS had staff at its lab in Israel conduct “electrical and optical examination of the protected internal software code of the card using expensive machinery”. It says the code extracted was then sent on to NDS’s American subsidiary, which gave it to Dr7.com, a website frequented by smartcard counterfeiters.

    Thanks for reminding me Russell, I was gob-smacked by the audacity when I first heard about it.
    The thought that we should be frightened of the Chinese whilst cuddling up to these sharks and snakes is, almost, laughable.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4684 posts Report Reply

  • Lew Stoddart, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    I would like to reserve the right to express concerns about the Chinese government (or one or another of their companies) and their actions without being called a Yellow Peril-shouting racist.

    Just like I would like to be able to criticise the Israeli government without being called a Jew-hater.

    Hells yes. Not that it’s a particularly strong aspect of the discussion here, but it’s a Tory commonplace at present. Watch for a record count of the X word from Matthew Hooton on Nine To Noon next Monday.

    And while we’re on the topic, that Russel Norman is inclined to believe an Australian government intelligence agency (or even an American one) over the Chinese government or a private Chinese for-profit company should come as no surprise. The Greens might distrust New Zealand and Australian governments of both flavours, and they might fear the American government, but they hate and fear the Chinese government more than almost any other. To an extent that’s fair enough – they’re a pretty far cry worse than anyone in the Anglosphere. Norman’s position seems fairly consistent except inasmuch as he’s failed to articulate previous levels of disdain for the NZ, Aussie and US security apparatus.

    The only thing about it that’s surprising is that it’s the Greens taking point, not Labour. Though that’s also becoming less surprising.

    L

    Edit to add: Hah, crossed over with Steve Barnes’ comment. I’ll take the devil we kind-of, sort-of know who is subject to kind-of, sort-of democratic imperatives and the rule of law over the one-party authoritarian law-unto-itself devil any day.

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

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Lew Stoddart,

    Ahhh but.
    This

    Security analyst Paul Buchanan said the deal could potentially give the Chinese government the opportunity to tap into New Zealand intelligence systems, including Echelon - the world's most extensive eavesdropping system to which China is not privy.

    It's just so hypocritical. How dare they have the possibility of discovering that we are spying on them.
    Or another way of looking at it...
    If they see the information we have on you, you should be worried. Because we are nice cuddly bunnies and butter doesn't melt in our mouths and they are the Devil and will eat your children.
    Those slanty eyes prove it.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4684 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Got a note to say that high-speed broadband will be passing by our house within days.
    Lucky bugger. Still no word on when it gets to my suburb in Auckland.

    I thought you got in 2008

    At a meeting of local residents at Pt Chevalier School this evening (Weds 9th April) staff from Telecom and Chorus provided an update of progress with the fast broadband deployment.

    Thanks Ross. I get the impression that the big difference for people isn’t just the prodigious downstream speeds, but a decent rate upstream for the first time.

    The more things change the more they stay the same...
    ;-)

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4684 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Norman’s position seems fairly consistent except inasmuch as he’s failed to articulate previous levels of disdain for the NZ, Aussie and US security apparatus.

    Well, to be fair, that was usually Keith Locke’s job, and he was pretty consistent about it. If he was fronting this issue with Norman it would probably sound more reasonable.

    The details of this? They’re too technical for me; I have to depend entirely on the knowledge of others, knowledge I’m unable to evaluate. I hope Gareth Hughes is working with sound sources, and he is then able to counsel his leader on broad principles. The politics isn’t particularly complex or hard to understand, but the truth of the matter seems so.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2132 posts Report Reply

  • Lew Stoddart, in reply to George Darroch,

    Well, to be fair, that was usually Keith Locke’s job, and he was pretty consistent about it.

    Ae, just so.

    If he was fronting this issue with Norman it would probably sound more reasonable.

    More reasonable, or less reasonable? Norman sounds a great deal more reasonable to me than Locke ever did, but I suspect that's down to political preference.

    L

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

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