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article imageOp-Ed: How big a security threat is Huawei?

By Ken Hanly     Mar 17, 2019 in Technology
Many countries worry that Huawei poses a security threat because it could be exploited by the Chinese government for espionage.
US actions against Huawei
The US has been cracking down hard on Huawei claiming it poses a grave threat to US national security, especially as the US builds its next generation 5G network. As a result, the US has blocked government use of Huawei equipment. At the same time, the company's chief financial officer has been charged with violating sanctions against Iran, and the company has been accused of stealing trade secrets.
The US has also been pressuring allies to ban Huawei. As reported in a recent Digital Journal article the US warned Germany that if it uses Huawei 5G technology, this could damage information sharing.
US General Curtis Scaparrotti NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe also warned about Huwaei, telling US lawmakers: "We're concerned about their telecommunications backbone being compromised in the sense that, particularly with 5G, the bandwidth capability and ability to pull data is incredible. If it also is inside of their defense communications, then we're not going to communicate with them. And for the military, that would be a problem."
Huawei's response
The company's main response has been to claim that it is not a security threat. They claim that the US has not produced any hard evidence that it works inappropriately with the Chinese government or that it would do so in the future. Even if there were a risk, Huawei claims there are ways to mitigate any risk that are used successfully in some countries.
Huawei's CEO has even claimed that the US is hypocritical in its treatment of China while all the while the US National Security Agency spies around the globe. The company also denied any criminal wrongdoing with respect to stealing intellectual property.
Earlier in March Huawei even brought a lawsuit against the US government ban on its products, claiming the ban was unconstitutional.
Security from government snooping
There is only one guaranteed secure way to to protect yourself from snooping by government and others: disconnect from the Internet and unplug your computer or other device.
The national security issue comes up only as part of a virtual cold war between certain countries such as between the US versus China both of which have advanced technologies. It may in part also represent a way of bolstering the sales of US technology and that of its allies over those of competitors in countries with whom there are tense relations.
Both the US and China demand access to data on the Internet. According to from Business Insider: "In a report about the NSA's mission for the 21st Century, the agency notes: "The volumes of routing of data make indexing and processing nuggets of intelligence information more difficult. To perform both its offensive and defensive mission, NSA must 'live on the network.'This is not the same as collecting metadata. Directly tapping into the two companies that provide 90 percent of America's communications is literally like collecting all communications data — content, location, contacts, pictures, words, etc."
The Chinese have demanded that Apple store the keys for Chinese iCloud accounts in China itself. It no longer needs to use US courts to gain info on its users but can go through its own legal system.
The Five Eyes intelligence system which includes the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia demands government access to encryption keys. WIkipedia notes about the Five Eyes: "The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a "supra-national intelligence organisation that does not answer to the known laws of its own countries". Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY have been spying on one another's citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on surveillance of citizens."
One can expect a country to shield its intelligence data from countries it regards as its enemies. The best solution would be for countries to have peaceful relations rather than the constant threat of cyberwarfare. This would do away with the need to have such security for the most part. Otherwise it would seem best to use the foreign technology but employ techniques to lower the security risks.
A recent Verge article gives a number of different viewpoints on the issue from very negative assessments, such as Senator Marc Rubio, to positive views of Huawei by Qing Wang, professor of marketing and innovation, at the University of Warwick.
Francis Dinha
CEO of OpenVPN suggests a solution that does not ban the use of a network that is a possible security threat: "Rather than relying on our network to be secure, we ought to seriously consider building an overlay secure virtual network across the 5G infrastructure that could provide end-to-end security, controlled and managed by the 5G network operators. We need guidelines to improve network security, and we need to push to make software for this equipment open-source. Open-source means transparency and security, which is exactly what we need as we move to 5G."
William Snyder, Professor of Law, at Syracuse University notes: "As long as conflict occurs at the nation-state level while critical cyber networks are designed and manufactured internationally, we all must be very careful. This is a systemic problem. Currently, Huawei’s size and ties to the PLA make it the focus of concern. In the future, another supply chain threat will take center stage.'
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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