back to article Huawei CTO insists: 'We are not a threat to UK and US national security'

A top Huawei exec has dismissed claims that his company poses a threat to British and US national security – despite Western government officials' fears over Huawei's alleged connections to the Chinese Communist Party. Professor Sanqi Li – speaking in an exclusive interview with The Register at the multinational's R&D centre …

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  1. Steve T
    Unhappy

    Are the Chinese really the enemy?

    Given the recent antics of NSA and GCHQ, perhaps parliament should be looking closer to home.

    1. pepper

      Re: Are the Chinese really the enemy?

      Truth is, turns out our own governments are not that far removed from what they claim is bad and horrible. Let alone follow their own words or rules.

    2. Mike G

      Re: Are the Chinese really the enemy?

      Just because the NSA and GCHQ are up to no good, doesn't somehow mean inversely the Chinese are squeaky clean good guys that can be trusted

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Are the Chinese really the enemy?

        Perversely, since the NSA and GCHQ were trusted to not be doing what they are doing it offsets a significant part of the risk associated with Huawei kit as we expect it to be doing strange things. It gets into more traditional spy vs spy technology/counter technology and I believe the West is pretty good at that.

        Going into an assumed known sketchy situation with your eyes open is always safer than going into a situation where you trust the known actors and having the rug pulled out from under you is always the most dangerous situation. Trust is extremely hard to quantify and its value increases greatly once it is gone. If trust is gone it is best to work with known quantities of distrust.

      2. Arctic fox

        @Mike G With the greatest of respect old chap nobody here is suggesting anything of the sort.

        Your posting is, unfortunately, a "straw-man argument". The point here is that Western governments have been forcing companies within their jurisdiction to do precisely what Chinese companies have been accused of. The issue is not being "virgins" with regard to what Chinese companies might get up to but rather the hypocrisy of our own governments.

        1. nonymous

          Re: @Mike G With the greatest of respect old chap nobody here is suggesting anything of the sort.

          No, the issue per this article is whether or not Huawei can be trusted, regardless of what the NSA/GCHQ are up to.

      3. nonymous

        Re: Are the Chinese really the enemy?

        mte

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Mike G - Re: Are the Chinese really the enemy?

        Just because the NSA and GCHQ are up to no good, doesn't somehow mean inversely the Chinese are squeaky clean good guys that can be trusted

        I'm not so sure I distrust the Chinese as much as I used to given the Snowden revelations.

        At least the Chinese can't imprison you if you step out of line, NSA or GCHQ can alert the proper authorities and they will have jurisdiction unlike the Chinese authorities.

        Posted as AC to avoid the bad karma from some of the USA! USA! folks here.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are the Chinese really the enemy?

        It's all about the power, baby.....

        If there is anything that I can hoover up, steal or spy on that gives me an edge then that is what I will do...

        Opening first class mail without authorization is still a federal offense because its contents (your personal correspondence) are still protected by the constitution. However IP packets have yet to be granted that status, and hence all the fuss.

        So as soon as we start encrypting all our data (thanks Google) and stop publishing our personal information on what is essentially a post card (thanks internet), the sooner we can have a sane debate on what is the actual reach and prerogative of our elected masters.

        Until then, intelligence agencies (private and pubic) will store, scan and read everything we do, whenever and wherever they can, and you will pay for it, in the name of freedom and profit. Why make it easier for them?

        Your friendly neighborhood Spyderman

        1. Tilman Ahr
          Childcatcher

          Re: Are the Chinese really the enemy?

          You /really/ think NSA, or the department of state ^W homeland security, upon seeing a piece of first class mail, say: fudge it all! It's first class mail! We can't Mess with that! '? If so, I'd like some of what you're smoking. To put annoying customers to rest, that is.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's funny, really...

    It seems funny, now, that we ever thought of USA as being more trustworthy than China

    1. Vociferous

      Re: It's funny, really...

      No, the funny part is that people think that because UK and US spying gets reported in media but they hear nothing from China or Russia, they think that means that China and Russia don't spy.

      When in fact it means that if Snowden had leaked about China or Russia he would be dead, and any chinese or russian media who reported his leaks shut down and journalists imprisoned.

  3. Jerky Jerk face

    I did busniess with Huawei 10 years ago.

    Upgrading mobile phone networks and i can tell you that there were rumors of possible hardwired spy tech in the exchange equipment. The equipment was units like the mDSLAM which is a load and connection hardware management of many user connections to the main internet back bones etc (sort of a modem of modems) and other critical data handling devices.

    I dont know who started the rumors but it was one shared by the CEO of the mobile site contractor company i was working for (who met with the Huawei top business men many times).

    remeber, that was ten years before any of the NSA spy stuff was confirmed.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: I did busniess with Huawei 10 years ago.

      "I dont know who started the rumors ... ten years before any of the NSA spy stuff was confirmed."

      ECHELON was already well known by then, and you can be sure that NSA and GCHQ were already busy suborning the Western vendors and carriers ten years ago; the Snowden revelations are pretty old news. So somebody suggested to somebody to suggest to somebody else that Huawei might be doing the same thing. Or that they should be, if they wanted to sell kit to the West.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: I did busniess with Huawei 10 years ago.

      That's the funny thing about rumors. You never know whether it's FUD and propaganda or maybe someone releasing his paranoia about The Protocol Of the Elders of Huawei, or whether someone knows something.

      In the end it's down to "put up or shut up".

      How about it, "government"? With all the spying, there should be something concrete.

      Seeing how even a reasonable dossier about the Syrian events is apparently vastly beyond the moral and intellectual capabilities of the 21st century army of bureaucrats and their assorted fakers, leeches and sycophants, I'm not holding my breath (Indeed, the only valid stuff so far is from Human Rights Watch).

      Meanwhile, time for some Open Source Routers.

  4. unhappy bunny

    yeah, right

    They would say that, wouldn't they ? (with apologies to M Rice-Davis)

    1. Ted Treen
      Pint

      Re: yeah, right

      The very quote that came to my mind.

      But then I am of a vintage that recalls the phrase from when she originally uttered it in the summer of '63...

      Have a beer (and an up vote) even though you beat me to it.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course they are a threat....

    ...it's harder for GCHQ / NSA to get access to them.

    /Ironyoff

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course they are a threat....

      Not really. Just the opposite - easier than Western Vendors. It is a "feature request".

      Huawei product strategy used to be an automated "yes" to any feature request from anyone for years,. This made its equipment special, irreplaceable and automatically preferred over incumbemnts has architectural control which refused to implement nonsense requests defined by clueless "geniuses" from the service provider research department.

      So back to the "NSA Feature" - I suspect NSA & GCHQ went to them with the same requirements which at least some US incumbents have implemented already, Huawei responded with documentation, price and immediate availability.

      NSA & GCHQ reacted to it the way a taleban newlywed reacts to the fact that his arranged wife is not a virgin and has been around the whole village. That's all.

      So from that perspective I actually agree with their CTO - they are a packet shifter like everyone else all right. They have implemented all the key snooping features based on requirements supplied by Chinese government already. That however raises a different question - what other requirements were there to be implemented in the first place?

  6. Paul Smith

    Oh yes they are...

    I would say that Huawei were a massive threat to US and UK national security, but not for the obvious reasons. In order to comply with FISC, PRISM and various other quasi-legal programs, Huawei would have to be told what to collect and how, and where to deliver it. Potentially, this information could render the western networks as open to the Chinese as they currently are to the NSA. And since the are not heavily dependent on the US government, they can not be blackmailed into the same degree of secrecy.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Oh yes they are...

      I would say that network kit isn't the biggest risk from the Chinese. Since both the US and the UK sold out their manufacturing bases to China it's mostly a wash as we send a lot of the important stuff over there anyway. They don't need to secretly snatch information, we just hand it to them.

      More than comfortable amounts of the electronics and miscellaneous stamped metal components in our Tactical Democracy Delivery Systems are made there. And as anyone involved in manufacturing will tell you it is nearly impossible to make parts for something and not figure out (if not outright know) how those parts are used and be able to reverse engineer the majority of the systems they work with. This is even easier in today's 'connected world' where most things explodey are a lot more similar than dissimilar; the reverse of the traditional bespoke guns & ammo world of the past.

      1. nonymous

        Re: Oh yes they are...

        Huawei has its own Chinese run chip fab, HiSilicon. Big difference. Your argument is oft repeated and indiscriminate.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          To Be or Not to Be ..... is just an AI Matter which Time and Shared Intelligence Resolves in Space

          Huawei has its own Chinese run chip fab, HiSilicon. Big difference. Your argument is oft repeated and indiscriminate. .... nonymous Posted Saturday 14th September 2013 16:48 GMT

          nonymous, Hi,

          The Chinese are Master Piloting a Fab Fabless Ship with Virtual Chips in a Novel Quantum Leaping AIdDrive with Command and Control Of Creative CyberSpace Computer Communications and/or, if Earthed IT Services, Creative Command and Cyber Control of Computer Communications ..... NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT

          And if you think IT not be so, then are they hereby offered a Customisable Alienating Version for Secure ProgramMING Protection of IT for a universal run with beta test spins around the globe, just to see if its IT and AI suits them and their plans?

          And it would be a certain failing to misunderestimate any thinking which exercises an effective propaganda machine ........ for such is the essence and substance which be used and abused in the programming of humanity and human machinery ......

          If you find it hard, think of the Long March; if you feel tired, think of our revolutionary forbears. The message has been drilled into us so that we can accomplish any goal set before us by the party because nothing compares in difficulty with what they did. Decades after the historical one, we have been spurred on to ever more Long Marches – to industrialize China, to feed the largest population in the world, to catch up with the West, to reform the socialist economy, to send men into space, to engage with the 21st century.

          Do we think there be similar future continuity planning for the presenting of contiguous events with a currency which leads here? ...... Technical Exploitation Support ........ and have any programs been submitted for the making, for there is no evidence of any yet being active and effectively working out in the field.

          I suppose that simple complex question when asked of Contracting Officer, Quentin McCoy, will provide as much as is needed to know what needs to be seeded and fed into systems.

          And it be surely here directly asked too, ..... for are not the Feds/is not the Fed via its NSA conduit not reportedly supposedly hoovering up all information and intelligence/monitoring all communications for mentoring after critical/strategic/tactical/deep packet metadata content analysis.

          GCHQ Territory 2 too, methinks, and Per Ardua AdAstral Park Virtual Terrain if you think Blighty is into Boffin Command with Global Controls and Vice Versa.

  7. Irongut Silver badge

    Obviously

    The US + UK government's real problems with Huawei kit is that it doesn't include the NSA backdoors that Cisco kit does. You're probably more secure with Huawei than any American brand.

    1. Scroticus Canis
      Thumb Up

      Re: Obviously

      My thoughts exactly. Mentioned this 3 days back on the 'Google Slams Back Door' story. Have a thumbs up.

    2. nonymous

      Re: Obviously

      That's a dumb argument, especially for any potential western target for Chinese industrial espionage.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "nothing to worry about"

    so many people have proclaimed it before, probably since the first apeman grinning and waving his left hand (me friend, me no harm) and guess what's in his right hand, clumsily sticking from behind his back?

    The governments (probably all since the first one was formed)... dictators, big and small (but of course). Government agencies, our own (it's all for your own good), and those of our enemies (we really mean you no harm, honest!), and our "partners" agencies, when they're ever forced to make this statement due to this or that leak (trust us, we're the good guys!).

    And don't forget the aliens, past (see movie reviews) and future (just wait and see).

    I guess the "nothing to worry about" declaration is the surest sign to become afraid, VERY afraid.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: "nothing to worry about" - BIASED!

      Your bias toward right-handed apeman is disgusting! To think that in today's world people still refuse to acknowledge the left-handed population! Oh sure, you're polite enough about it in person, you'd probably sell something to them, but when they're out of earshot you might as well be a condom with a hole in it: Useless. A dog with three dicks: Annoying. A cheeseburger with no cheese: Tasteless and an abomination unto nature.

      You just keep your eyes open pal. When the shit hits it's going to be coming from your right!

    2. Uffish

      Re: "nothing to worry about"

      I think some people have become paranoid, VERY paranoid. I wouldn't trust the paranoid with anything - recent events seem to support my opinion.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: "nothing to worry about"

        Indeed, Western governments have grown extremely paranoid. They don't even trust the people that elect them...

  9. Stuart Elliott

    Huawei Kit

    Just put half a dozen S5710 10GB switches in the office here this week, nice pieces of kit to be honest.

  10. Kevin Pollock

    I'm not so much worried about the security as...

    ...the massive financial support the Bank of China gives to Huawei and ZTE.

    Whenever I've mentioned that on these boards in the past people have retorted with the fact that Western governments have historically done the same thing.

    But most of the examples people here have given are in the defence sector - which I agree is a corrupt cesspool of which we should be deeply ashamed. And any examples in the telecoms sector are dwarfed by the $32 Billion that the Chinese Bank gave Huawei to "win international business".

    Having said I'm not worried about security...I look at my TalkTalk broadband service, with it's Huawei YouView box (which keeps freezing), which won't work unless I use the Huawei router (which has the shitiest WiFi signal I've ever experienced), and connects to the Huawei DSLAM in the local exchange. Gosh - that's a lot of dependence on one vendor.

    BT is even worse. They literally could not run their national network without the army of Huawei engineers (most of them Chinese nationals) in Adastral Park.

    1. Steve T

      Re: I'm not so much worried about the security as...

      How curious. My Huawei YouView box has frozen exactly twice in nearly 11 months, and the Huawei router (not the old white one, the new black one) has an excellent signal - just as good as the TP-Link and Belkins I also use.

      1. Don Jefe
        Joke

        Re: I'm not so much worried about the security as...

        Your box keeps freezing because the firmware has a known bandwidth allocation error when uploading your shows to the rebroadcaster in China. Just turn it around and it'll work fine.

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I have total confidence

    ... that Huawei are exactly as trustworthy as any other manufacturer from any other country.

  12. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Chinese Dragons are AIMagnificent Beasts of Rare Beauty

    It is surely the case that anyone smart enough to have anything to say/share that be worthwhile snooping on, will be way ahead of the game and make contact with spooks and/or those who can beta use the intel/info/data/metadata to make a change/market killing/cause a collapse/start a war or whatever.

    They aint just gonna wait for systems to catch up with what they be doing, are they? That would be just too stupid for words.

    "Yes, data are passing through the Huawei equipment from a network perspective... packet in, packet out. But it doesn't store the data. We do develop the products to enable carriers to operate the network... most of the intelligence in the data centre is where the data is stored."

    Precisely, .... well said, Professor Sanqi Li. Garbage in, garbage out in the West, is their problem to solve and not anyone else's to be worried about. And probably China has much better things to do with intelligence in the spaces they are into.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bell Canada and Huawei along the US border.

    Huawei is increasingly a supplier of Telecomm equipment to Bell Canada.

    (Ironically, just a few years ago, the late unlamented Nortel, telecomm supplier to Bell Canada was providing such equipment to China.)

    Now, Bell Canada are building cell-towers along the Quebec border with the US, (OK, maybe a mile North of the US) where the population is sparse. And cellphones are even sparser.

    Why is Bell Canada building these towers?

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Bell Canada and Huawei along the US border.

      The Québécois Unified Immigration Movement (QUIM) has been pushing for ages for increased border protection along their Southern border.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Foolishness along the US border.

        Ah, ye cannot fool me, laddie!

        The noun QUIM was a Victorian-era word that was used specifically to refer to the fluids produced by the vagina, specifically during orgasm.

        Or perhaps during a secret assignation, whilst parking underneath one of these cell towers?

        1. Don Jefe
          Happy

          Re: Foolishness along the US border.

          Yeah, that term actually came up in the Marvel Avengers movie and wife asked what it was. It was one of the rare occasions where I googled it & let her read for herself :)

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Ring a Ding Dong Bell

        Hi, Don Jefe,

        I would like to immediately and unconditionally volunteer for active service in support and supply of field operations which further any and all missions with the prime base objective of providing insatiable satisfaction to secretive agents as per the Anonymous Coward manifest, Posted Saturday 14th September 2013 03:54 GMT

  14. J 3

    Funnily enough...

    I read the subtitle as "We're just a box and packet sniffer like everyone else". Oh, well, I guess I still haven't woken up enough.

  15. Camilla Smythe

    Allow me to put this in Perspective. Applies to all sides.

    BOLLOCKS

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rubbish Article

    Why all the weasel words? Where are the actual facts to confirm that the rumours are anything else than that?

    Yes, of course we know the Chinese have a reputation, and we know of instances where it is very well-earned indeed (which is why measures are taken in the industry when dealing with certain potential customers, partners, or suppliers).

    But this reeks of cheap propaganda, with El Reg buying right into it.

  17. Panicnow

    Surely the threat to our security is the fact that there is no NSA back-door into NTC kit. Spying through Back-doors are essential to our governments to identify threats to their rule. Err like Watergate!

  18. Vociferous

    Yeah, the Chinese are still the worst when it comes to stealing tech.

    People focus on NSA and GCHQ because that's what they hear of, but their spying is mainly targeted at military/terror threats, while the Chinese spying is aimed at stealing tech and suppressing human rights.

    ALL Chinese companies are nominally the property of the Chinese state, and the Chinese state has unrestricted rights to all company assets. The Chinese secret service runs the Chinese counterparts of Facebook and Google, and if the secret service wants to insert code in the firmware of a Huawei product then Huawei will comply.

    In short, yeah, Huawei is a massive security risk if you're a competitor of any Chinese company, associated with human rights, or work in the energy or defense sector.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah, the Chinese are still the worst when it comes to stealing tech.

      You ever tried competing with US companies on 'important' projects?

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Yeah, the Chinese are still the worst when it comes to stealing tech.

        The US spying is a problem if you ever get in a bidding war with a major US company or you're associated with terrorists; the Chinese spying is a problem if you have an important patent a Chinese competitor could benefit from, have relatives in China, is involved in human rights activities, or am a journalist. For most people China will be the bigger problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yeah, the Chinese are still the worst when it comes to stealing tech.

          @vociferous

          Your wallpapering over US murk is unconvincing.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One benefit

    If it does have back doors at least they might support if for more than six months (joke).

    The biggest disincentive for me buying "Varue" (sorry) far east versions of network kit is knowing if it will still be getting patches or support in a couple of,,,,, a years time. Being half the cost of Brand X should not mean I have to replace it twice as often, or finding it is no longer supported due to some insurmountable hardware scrimping.

    I know its unfair to paint a whole countries output with the experiences of a few rogue manufacturers but having been bitten a few times it will take a while for me to trust kit sold with price as one of its main advantages.

  20. james 68

    I wonder...

    has anyone considered that the reason the US and UK govs dislike Huawei gear is that its tech so simple they cant use their high tech spy gear to steal the packets straight from the switch?

    "no no no dont use that nasty Huawei switch... use this nice shiney Cisco one, its much safer...... honest"

    because lets face it, ALL our tech is made in China.

    you dont see them banning the use of iphones do you?

    and since you cant do big business in China without at least a pretend nod to the commie party i will bet that the Foxconn plants have ties exactly like Huawei

    or how about Netgear, D-Link,Cisco etc? theres more to this than meets the eye

  21. Mike 'H'

    Plausible Deniability

    You should take a look at the research by German security analysts, Phenoelit: Felix Lindner and his fellow-researcher Greg. Theyve presented at DEF-CON and other security related conferences, and have their slides and research up on their phenoelit web site.

    Their take? "Huawei routers don't need backdoors, when every default service is enabled and exploitable. Its plausible deniability."

    The DEF-CON talk can be found on YouTube and DEF-CON's own torrents; "Hacking [Redacted] Routers".

  22. crayon

    @Vociferous

    "Yeah, the Chinese are still the worst when it comes to stealing tech."

    Do you mean they are "worst at it" or "worst for it"?

    "People focus on NSA and GCHQ because that's what they hear of, but their spying is mainly targeted at military/terror threats,"

    Problem is they are treating EVERYTHING as a potential military/terror threat and hence are scooping everything they can get their hands on. Killing everybody in London is bound to remove 1 or 2 people who maybe be a potential threat, but that is hardly the most efficient or the most acceptable way of doing things.

    "while the Chinese spying is aimed at stealing tech"

    I'll eat my Huawei router (If I had one) if it can be proven that the NSA and GCHQ are not engaged in stealing tech - that may not be their primary mission but they're doing it nonetheless.

    "... and suppressing human rights."

    Whilst the Chinese in general have been enjoying more freedoms and human rights over the last 3-4 decades, the opposite is true of the US and the UK.

    "ALL Chinese companies are nominally the property of the Chinese state, and the Chinese state has unrestricted rights to all company assets."

    I don't know how you worked this out. Granted a lot of the major companies are state owned, if this is what you mean then fine, but then don't use the word "ALL". If that is not what you mean then I'm sure by whatever chain of logic you used to come to that conclusion can also be used to reach the same conclusion for any other company in any other country.

    "The Chinese secret service runs the Chinese counterparts of Facebook and Google,"

    Well do you have a youtube (or even a youku) link to back up your claims?

    "and if the secret service wants to insert code in the firmware of a Huawei product then Huawei will comply."

    At this moment in time there is no credible proof to support this. If there was credible proof do you not think that the US govt would have exposed this already? Or are they keeping quiet so as to not let anybody know that they are reading all the communiques shuttling back and forth between the CCP and Chinese companies?

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