back to article Oxford University reportedly turns off its Huawei money tap

Oxford University is reportedly suspending all research grants and donations from Chinese tech giant Huawei, according to a Chinese newspaper. The South China Morning Post (SCMP), which is owned by Chinese tech mega-corp Alibaba, reported on Thursday that graduate computer science students were told by email that Oxford’s …

  1. Mickey Porkpies
    Black Helicopters

    Put up or Shut up

    ok how many more peeps are dumping their kit for "security" reason PUBLISH you evidence. Nobody denies their link to Government but given the evidence of other government backdoor shenanigans thanks to Mr Snowden which has been published if their is a genuine issue lets see the evidence and their response. This is becoming more farcical than Brexit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Put up or Shut up

      Fuck’s sake. Just once, it would be nice if commenters here extended the same generous benefit of the doubt to the Western agencies that they seem so happy to grant to the Chinese/Russians.

      Go ahead, downvote me to hell. I’m just so sick of the “herp derp British bad, Americans bad, Chinese and Russians always tell the truth and are always to be trusted” tripe that gets posted here.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Put up or Shut up

        “herp derp British bad, Americans bad, Chinese and Russians always tell the truth and are always to be trusted”

        Not sure what you're reading. Most of the commentards* on El Reg's forums are wizened old cynics who equally mistrust any intelligence agency or government whether that be British, USA-ian, Chinese, Russian or anywhere in between or indeed below**

        *lovingly, of course

        **not forgetting our antipodean friends :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Put up or Shut up

        AC, FTR The western agencies aren't working for your benefit.

    2. ToddRundgrensUtopia

      Re: Put up or Shut up

      I guess you don't follow Brexit Mickey

      1. m0rt

        Re: Put up or Shut up

        Is that even possible?

    3. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Put up or Shut up

      " Nobody denies their link to Government "

      You think? What is it, then? It's a privately owned company whose shareholders are its own employees. Some employees and the founder did military service. How is this different from many companies in Western countries?

      We know what's going on here. Unlike most allegations of security issues in the industry, there is no published information even about what class of security issues are alleged, let alone any actual specific information that might help a user avoid or fix the alleged issues. So the only rational conclusion is that it's all fiction, invented for reasons of commercial protectionism.

      It's very Trumpian in fact: a Chinese company is doing better than its Western competitors, so we'll use fake news and abuse of power to damage it. I suppose all this particular action proves is that Oxford University is still part of the British Establishment, and responds to blasts on the usual dog whistle.

  2. dogcatcher

    How to shoot oneself in the foot

    I suppose they have forgotten that the University houses the University of Oxford China Centre and that the new building there was paid for by Mr Dickson Poon, a philanthropist from Hong Kong.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: How to shoot oneself in the foot

      It also has probably forgotten where the original monies came from for certain colleges and their bursary funds...

      Personally, I would have expected this level of daftness from the NUS et al, not from a University, which probably has a sizable number of students from China, paying full fees - has it checked that these students aren't being funded directly by Huawei?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very slick

    Very slick words indeed from Mr Zhengfei. Have to admire the economy with which he packs so much mis-direction into so few words.

    I don't like to be too pessimistic, but in the end, it may come down to a straight choice between being most easily spied on by western spooks, or eastern ones.

    Not a theist, but god help us.

    1. Martin Summers

      Re: Very slick

      That's exactly it. That's the choice that's being made. Lots of people making noise about Western governments being able to backdoor stuff too but quite rightly they are indeed making the choice 'who do we prefer to spy on us'. I don't think anyone is being unreasonable in stripping out their kit from core networks. You don't go out of your way to make it easy for a government like that to spy on you or potentially have access to critical national infrastructure, why on earth would you?

      I've just had a Huawei G.Fast modem installed at home and I will just have to put up with the fact that they can see the unimportant crap I use my connection for. If I need to connect to work (and let's not forget that hostile governments like to undermine the economies of its 'enemies') it's via secure means anyway.

    2. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Very slick

      I don't see any misdirection. If there are backdoors in Huawei products, it's because many governments want them, and telcos have no choice about acquiring equipment with backdoors. And do people realise that "call home" features are pretty much standard practice in everything today?

      This whole business was cooked up by lobbyists for Huawei's Western competitors, who are seriously worried about their market share collapsing in the face of better, cheaper equipment. Don't like the fact that China has learned how to compete? Then use underhand techniques against them, rather than making your own products better and cheaper.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IDK about this case, but Chinese tech for their domestic market has backdoors so they can monitor everyone's communications. Thing is, some Western authorities seem to want the same backdoors in consumer grade kit here, just not in their own.

    Who can you trust? No-one is probably the answer, since we know our governments actively exploit the security of our own devices. This is why we need full-stack open source hardware + software to defend the little people.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ellacoya OK, Huawei not OK

    Is that the situation here? Not specifically re Oxford University, but generally re Phorm and Ellacoya and Plusnet and BT Retail and Stratis Scleparis and ten years since DPI first fell off the edge of the Internet...

  6. YetAnotherJoeBlow


    About a week ago my home pocket wifi (E5330) - made by Huawei, started acting up. I used wireshark to see what was happening, I soon found the problem. Fixed it. About and hour later when I remembered to turn wireshark off, I saw a reverse connection from Poland to my wifi. After some reverse engineering (3 hours), I discovered that port 26550 was set up for port knocking. It hid a 64-bit knock in the first packet. After the knock, a ten minute udp session was sent over the wifi back to a different IP in Poland than the IP that was used to do the knocking. Most likely I won't be able to decrypt it. I dumped the firmware and compared it to an official firmware image. Hashes were the same. What do you suppose? More than likely I will give it to a company to reverse engineer the entire firmware image. There was nothing worth stealing from the pc it was talking to.

    1. really_adf

      Re: FYI

      "Pcaps or it didn't happen"

    2. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      Re: FYI

      I agree. The absence of any kind of real evidence (no, anonymous claims with nothing to back them up are not evidence) is what make me dubious of these claims. If this had been noted and properly reported by someone reputable it would be headline news and Huawei would be dead in the water in foreign markets at least: put simply they can't afford to insert backdoors, it risks the entire company. Look at how Supermicro were affected over unsubstantiated and incredible claims over a small number of motherboards being hacked, and then consider what would happen to any company installing that sort of thing deliberately and as standard if it became public knowledge.

      So yes, when you have something real to report from your reverse engineers let us all see it, until then this is nonsense. I somehow doubt we'll hear back from you. Although I must admit I'm really impressed by your technical prowess. Getting Wireshark to tell you not what is on your LAN, but what is going out the 3G side of a 3G modem. That's quite some feat...

      1. YetAnotherJoeBlow

        Re: FYI

        "So yes, when you have something real to report from your reverse engineers let us all see it, until then this is nonsense. I somehow doubt we'll hear back from you. Although I must admit I'm really impressed by your technical prowess. Getting Wireshark to tell you not what is on your LAN, but what is going out the 3G side of a 3G modem. That's quite some feat..."

        What are you on about? I am not talking about the connection from my modem to the tower only the tcp/ip protocol conveyed to it from my network.

        Wireshark did not tell me what was on my lan, I have my networks separated by firewalls and they log dropped packets. These are internal networks and the dropped packets stand out like a sore thumb (The machine I was talking about wasn't allowed in my other networks.)

        Your comment is telling, I come across your kind a lot. That's why people hire me. That's why I've been consulting for over 30 years, and that is why they pay me to solve problems that you cannot - but you do now how to complain I'll bet...

        For the record I never said Huawei was the culprit - or anyone else for that matter. I just relayed what I observed. Some people might want to look at their setups is all.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: FYI

          >That's why people hire me. That's why I've been consulting for over 30 years, and that is why they pay me to solve problems that you cannot

          So who did you report your findings to? As surely if you really are such a good consultant you would do the right thing and report such matters, then use this as an example (to your clients) of one of the many ways you add value.

          I downvoted because your response was so obviously totally at odds with the clear (but not necessarily precise) details you reported in your first posting. Hence the question asked about monitoring your device's mobile connection was totally valid. [Aside: I note you have posted below accepting this fact.]

          So given many of us have Huawei MiFi's and deep networking knowledge, which particular variant of the E5330 do you have and what do I need to be able to confirm your findings - including the model number of the 'special device'.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: FYI

          "consulting for over 30 years" - is that 30 times 1 year of experience?

          Oh, by the way, UDP doesn't have "sessions"

      2. YetAnotherJoeBlow

        Re: FYI

        Ah, I see what your were on about. From modem to tower. I have a laptop I use with a special device (expensive too) which logs the packets (made by Huawei too :)

        Sorry about that.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Real Problem

    The West’s fear of Huawei stems mainly from concerns that the company may be using its growing market share to secretly backdoor its equipment to assist the Chinese state with industrial and political espionage.

    The real problem is that Huawei can, by Chinese law, be required to backdoor their own equipment at any time. What seems to escape a lot of the press is that this is just as true for the United States, as Snowden revealed, and seems to be also true for GCHQ, ASD, and pretty much every other nation on earth with respect to firms domiciled therein. Australia seems determined to even make that extraterritorial. Have to wait and see on that.

    1. Mickey Porkpies

      Re: The Real Problem

      Trust me I am not a fan of China... I agree my issue is where is all of the other kit that is swapped out made? China build pretty much anything that has a cable, led and chips. If China wants to backdoor its own kit it isn't a wild leap that it can do it to any kit Cisco, Ericsson etc. I agree there is a risk but unless you manufacture your own components and assemble there is always a risk. The argument that just because it is state controlled it can't be trusted is simplistic to the extreme.

  8. jmch Silver badge

    "China build pretty much anything that has a cable, led and chips."

    True now, but only insofar as China was much cheaper than "the west" and was willing to invest in infrastructure. As China's economy grows and salaries rise, it will become cheaper to build stuff in India, Phillippines, Vietnam etc. This has already happened 10-15 years ago with no-tech items (eg textiles) and lower-tech items (eg disk drives). As Chinese costs rise relative to other Asian countries, higher and higher-end tech will move manufacturing out of China and into their neighbours. Think of China being now in the position that Japan was 30 years ago.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternative to Oxford

    Perhaps Huawei could look towards Coventry University. It is far enough away from London to be aware that US spooks and corporates are something to be watched out for just as hard as Chinese ones.

    We have lots of your fellow citizens here and perhaps you could send some more money?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alternative to Oxford

      Or, if Huawei want to keep Oxford sweet, they should get involved in a sketchy arms deal or two where lots of palms (both here and in forn parts) get well greased, who knows? maybe they'll also get a monstrously ugly building named after them into the bargain...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's too late anyway - better learn Mandarin

    It's typical that governments are quite happy to hit on the Chinese in the domestic market whilst knowing full well they've lost the battle.

    Let's add up a few things:

    - we have a major global warning and pollution problem;

    - so has China, so much more than "us" that they HAD to take action, and China being China, it didn't hold back once the decision was taken;

    - China has embarked on a MAJOR stimulus for electric transport, with bonus points for efficiency;

    - green energy (wind/solar) is woefully insufficient to fulfil our power needs;

    - fossil fuel power generation merely moves many small exhausts into a few big ones

    - current nuclear reactors are plutonium/steam based because of some "we need weapons grade stuff for bombs" decisions in the 70s..

    .. but the Chinese are well ahead in the alternative stream of thorium based reactors (liquid salt based) - and have developed their own IP whilst addressing the issues such as corrosion. As a matter of fact, they may go live with a test reactor this year, or in 2020. All that while Trump is encouraging coal to keep his voters happy, and has allowed the EPA to pretty much ignore pollution and global warming so they're not developing solutions either.

    What do you reckon is going to happen to the dollar when the Chinese are starting to use and sell those smaller, safer plants? It makes the renminbi more interesting as a reserve and energy currency, and unlike Iraq, the Americans can't bomb the crap out of them for having the temerity not to use the dollar for energy sales..

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Doesn't it all come down to Chinese manufacturers not playing ball by inserting 5-eyes backdoors?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I reckon you've hit the nail on the head - I have been of the same opinion pretty much since Kaspersky all of a sudden was claimed to be the devil's spawn (a company known throughout its entire existence for its refusal to whitelist government spyware), the Huawei thing is just more of the same, probably emboldened by how the fake news campaign against Kaspersky worked out.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      >Doesn't it all come down to Chinese manufacturers not playing ball by inserting 5-eyes backdoors?

      But how can they? as soon as '5-eyes' tell them what backdoors they need, the Chinese government will know which backdoors to monitor...

  12. Giovani Tapini

    Perhaps I should stop using Cisco network gear

    In case it's enabling the Americans to spy on me, as opposed to normal commercial gouging...

    I strongly suspect that this is more related to the trade dispute and "America first" than any genuine issues.

    All vendors are based in countries where governments could attempt device comprising, either for targeted shipping or backdoor as a standard service.

    Perhaps the Chinese could accuse AWS of enabling mass surveillance by the NSA with all the concentration of data and networking and compute while standardising their configuration for interception..."cloud is US cloak encouraging people to provide the state intelligence service with all their data voluntarily and unwittingly."

    Basically they are all either at it or capable. Set up your networking properly, try to avoid single vendor setups (usually easy as they all have services they don't provide) and use encryption.

    If you don't trust anyone keep your data off the Internet, otherwise use caution and wait for evidence before backing the latest political manoeuvre...

  13. oldgreyguy

    You know.....

    growing up in the mainly southern parts of the US... learning to never trust politicians, bible thumpers, so on and so on... Huawei must be the original pig with lipstick... I apologize if I offend any one... but for a company that big, in China, with all its goodness.... aw hell no matter what all the libs say... a pig is still a pig.... just like in my country... you don't get big by smooching, you gotta be sucking someones (in this case CHINA) tallywhacker. They are surely doing the devils work.. we should all beware

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a couple of months

    The UK will be following its master into a trade war with the Chinese, if it wants any tariff free business in the US (in 5 years time when the trade deal is signed).

    But maybe that won't be quite so appealing by then:

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