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Without proof, is Huawei still a national security threat? (techcrunch.com)
36 points by symisc_devel 26 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments



>That’s the crux of the argument: nobody thinks Huawei is spying now. To get caught would be too dangerous. But nobody knows that it won’t spy in the future.

Huawei was implicated in the hack on the African Union. [1,2] Now, that hasn't been proven anywhere, nor have they been formally accused, but it came up when Australia dropped them for 5G.

1. https://outline.com/WfCzFe (same as [2], outlined) 2. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/national-s...


(Thank you for outline link, its a great service!)

Quoting the same article

> There’s no proof that Huawei was asked to participate or turn a blind eye to the breach, but we know that there was a breach and Huawei was the key provider

(The article mentions ZTE, that was also hardware provider, but did not put the blame on them?)

This link also mentions that the AU HQ was bugged with microphones(the compound was build by chinese subcontractors) that implies, that if attack was real, it involved more than mere cloud service and wifi provider https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/the-african-union-headquar...

But in general, the sources are not verifiable - the Le Monde itself, that seems to be the source, didnt mention huawei at all, the article quoted in parent comment mentions "australian national security source" https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2018/01/26/a-addis-ab...


USA has already been proven to be spying all over the world, tracking all our internet activity.

And the suggestion that US spying is benign falls flat in the face of shit like this: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/jan/28/international-cr...


I find it irritating how the tech world conversation about this seems to center around "proof". This is not a court of law, it's not innocent until proven guilty. The bar for decision making on this issue is not "beyond an unreasonable doubt".

We're talking about letting a company under the control of China, the country responsible for ongoing mass-scale industrial espionage at every level of our economy, build the core communications network for our country. It's insanity that it's even open for discussion.


You realise that’s how the rest of the world views the US? The US spies on the rest of the world; Cisco etc install back doors. The US was spying on Angela Merkel. For the emerging world, this is good, there’s finally a counterbalance to the NSA and US tech companies mass surveillance. The US isn’t the world’s largest economy anymore (PPP adjusted, soon to be in nominal terms as well.) so this idea that the rules of the game don’t apply to the US is past it’s sell by date. To someone with privilege, equality seems like oppression.


This false equivalence is just ridiculous.

The US may spy on other countries. Sure. Every country does. But it's what they do with the data that is important. Does the US have a social credit system ? Do they have a mass "re-education" program for people who have said anything critical of the government ? Do they do what they want without any checks and balances (journalism, courts, laws) etc ?

China, I would remind you, is a dictatorship not a democracy. And the only way it remains that way is by using data to stamp out dissension. It's a completely differently situation to the US or frankly every other Western country.

For example look at what happens to Australian citizens in China based on what they say about the government:

https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/detention-of-an-australian...


It's not false equivalence when you're in the position of a third country.

Yes, what China does to its own citizen is immeasurably worse than what the US (currently) does to its own citizen. But that's not really relevant, because the leader of $(Country X) is not trying to emigrate to China.

The more relevant question is: how many non-Chinese regimes were overthrown by China in the past 100 years? (In other words, "What do they do with the data?", as you asked.)


China definitely isn't as overt as the US.

But their behaviour towards Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Mongolia and the various neighbours in the South China Sea isn't exactly non-aggressive.

And might want to look into how they use debt to further their geopolitical aims around the world e.g. trying to build naval ports in the South Pacific. It's far more insidious and a long term threat to world stability than most people realise.


Iran becomes a democracy, they resist the plunder of their natural resources by the UK. The US and UK overthrow their leader. The new leader is a murderous dictator which leads to the Islamic Revolution, there have been sanctions since.

South America is littered with American interference, as is the Middle East (which is unstable precisely because of American interference), parts of Africa (Mobutu was propped up by the US, as was Museveni, Moi, PW Botha etc).

The US has destabilized vast parts of the rest of the world then complains about the same people immigrating into the US. The conflict in Nicaragua are a direct is a direct result of CIA activities there, the US reaction to refugees fleeing from a war caused by the US into the US is to build a wall.

The rest of the world hasn't been stable - it's just that their current actions break the monopoly the US has had on causing instability in the world - for the rest of the world, it's good.

The US has just been as hungry for natural resources, it's financed regime changes in Iran, Iraq (in the 50s and in the 00s), the rest of the world views the US as a net aggressor and a cause of war and death in their parts of the world.


  China definitely isn't as overt as the US
It doesn't get more "overt" than China's occupation of Tibet.


There’s the US occupation of Eastern Cuba, Eastern Syria, and it’s countless military bases and presence all around the world.


China will bribe your corrupt politicians in order to take control of natural resources for less than they're worth. USA will overthrow your govt and bomb you to the stone age if you resist.

You can't compare imperialist USA with China. The former is a vicious beast compared to the latter's Pooh bear.

Now when it comes to how they treat their own citizens, sure, one can't argue that the US is miles ahead by every measure. But this discussion isn't about how they treat their own citizens.


The "we're a democracy and they're not" excuse is starting becoming a bit tired. China is hardly a single leader dictatorship the way Libya and Zimbabwe were. And America has no qualms playing it close with real and insane dictatorships like Saudi Arabia. We can see Presidents like Obama posing for pictures with insane Tyrants like Yahya Jammeh who threatened to jail anyone who questioned his claims that he developed a cure for aids. The world situation is a lot more complex than we like to admit. And I'm not entirely sure that democracy is the best or only solution. Dictatorship worked very well for South Korea under Park Chung-hee and Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew.


> China is hardly a single leader dictatorship

It literally is.

China removed term limits so Xi Jinping can be there for the rest of his life.


He's not a single leader ruling on whim like Mao or Gaddafi. There is still the party that meets to discuss things and the standing committees. They have a system. I wish that system made more leeway for individual rights, but apparently the people of China don't and that's their right to have the sort of government they please and not my place to question how they run their country.


I think you need to read up on China's political structure before you comment further. The Politiburo was a check on the premier in name only, and now that term limits have been abolished, not at all. Now it's just a rubber stamp.


Why are people making a big deal out of this term limits thing.

1. The party's constitution says that no position is for life. There is mandatory retirement at age 68 (Xi is currently 65)

2. The General secretary position has never had term limits. So Xi is no better or worse position than any of his predecessors. President in China is more symbolic than anything else.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/04/...


The US’s actions in it’s foreign policy have been far worse than it’s domestic policy.

Kind of like England in the 19th century. A liberal democracy at home, despot abroad.


For all its other faults, Britain was the leading force in combating the worldwide slave trade in the 19th century.


"Does the US do what they want without any checks and balances (journalism, courts, laws) etc ?"

When it matters, yes.


I wouldn't call this a false equivalence, I'd consider it the canary in the mine. While the U.S. does not appear to have cross many of these lines today: China can serve as our own warning about placing too much power in the hands of the ruling elite.

A dismissal of concerns about a rising external threat arising within the U.S. doesn't avert crisis: it delays it's response.

The US has a social credit system? No: The U.S. have a credit rating system. This controls the distribution of loans for Homes, to Credit Cards, and cars (considered a necessity in order to work in many parts of the U.S.)

Mass re-education? Not explicitly to my knowledge. A near counterpart may be the modern prison system. The U.S. leads all other nations in number imprisoned per 100,000. Furthering the concerns is a possible regression to Debtors Prison https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors%27_prison#Modern_debto...

You switch from "The U.S." to "they" for checks and balances. I'll assume "they" is "the U.S.". Does the U.S. operate without checks and balances? No, however by it's nature the system is also slow to react to these threats. Thus continuing to focus light on the subject ensures a continued interest in self-policing to ensure these lines are not crossed/

To contrast with view of the U.S. Externally: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_Uni... It's hard to argue with the last "defeat" in 1995 (and 15 subsequent "engagements") that the U.S. is a powerhouse. Hard-power Hegemony has it's perks. Soft-Power: The U.S. is still out-performing most other nations (with Forbes listing the U.S. as 4th in terms of soft-power influence).

While China's position in the world today may be concerning, the U.S.'s actions can be similarly concerning for a citizen of China. This concern is only amplified countries who aren't seated in a central position of power. They lack both the external presence flouting superiority while both observing their own internal discord.

The fine line between internal politics of a Nation and external politics conflates the problem leading to confusion and a dis-ingenuous comparison.

FYI: The U.S. is not a democracy, it's a Republic. In principle this empower's the minority protecting them from the majority. In practice this is one of the largest criticism's brought out against the U.S. today with "the 1%" being a hotly debated internal strife. While the benefit can be show-cased through the recent gay-rights movement (and earlier civil-rights movements), the draw-backs are yet-unseen.


True, but it seems to me like a difference in scale rather than kind.


The terms "false equivalence" and "whataboutism" and "ridiculous" are just labels and devoid of facts or reasoning.

The truth is that the US is far more imperialistic and murderous than any other nation on earth, including China. Assuming you live in the US, you are blinded by living in the belly of the beast.

edit: Also, if you don't think the US uses data to stamp out dissent, you are simply ignorant. Just look up COINTELPRO, which is just one of many official anti-dissent programs. You could almost say it's the FBI's job to stamp out dissent. And that's not getting into covert information techniques, such as CIA operatives at most major news outlets, and in modern times, social media manipulation.

See: https://theintercept.com/2018/01/03/my-life-as-a-new-york-ti...


During US superpower hegemony, the world has seen the least amount of violence in its entire history.


Well US is no longer a superpower hegemony, and violence is still decreasing, so I wouldn't say it's a cause and effect thing.


Actually I would say China is currently far more murderous than the US.

We just don't know the full extent of their "re-education" program but we do know Chinese Muslims and journalists are present there:

https://www.vox.com/2018/10/24/18018282/china-reeducation-ca...

Also I am Australian not American so I'm hoping my world view is as clear and educated as yours.


The US has invaded multiple countries and overthrown just as many in recent memory. China has done no such thing. For the rest of the world, there's far more reasons to fear the US than there is China...


> The US has invaded multiple countries and overthrown just as many in recent memory. China has done no such thing.

Did you properly learn Chinese history? [0]

0 - https://www.laowaicareer.com/blog/has-china-ever-invaded-ano...


Did you forget about the Sino-Tibetan war? en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Tibetan_War

The rest of the examples are also a stretch.

China has certainly not done anything on the level of invading Iraq, overthrowing the governments of Iran or Chile, or destabilizing the middle East.


Huh, what is the point you're trying to make by bringing up proof that companies can and have been influence by their host governments to spy and steal on their behalf?

China would be crazy to let US controlled companies access to their critical infrastructural. US would be crazy to let Chinese controlled companies access to their critical infrastructural.

Welcome to geopolitics.


Exactly - this is why none of the most significant problems facing our world, all of which are fundamentally international in nature, can be solved. The sclerotic institution of the nation state renders solutions, even when entirely obvious, impossible to implement. The current global quasi-civilisation will collapse, as all civilisations eventually do. It will happen this century, leaving behind a comprehensively wasted landscape less hospitable to subsequent large-scale human organisation than earlier collapses.

Homo sapiens was a failed evolutionary experiment. Perhaps some on other planets do rise to the challenge of planetary organisation, but obviously we don't possess the necessary capacities.


>there’s finally a counterbalance to the NSA and US tech companies mass surveillance.

Pardon my analogy, but that sounds like one kick in the shins being counterbalanced by a second kick in the shins.


China deemed anything can be weaponized, and everything should, be it Huawei or construction companies building Belt and road initiative. They will use every means possible to retake their position as the centre of the world. Check 'Unrestricted warfare' for an example of that mindset. Just like in doing business with them, they will cheat if they think that won't be found out (I know this sounds racist, but my experience working with them give me that vibe).


> they will cheat if they think that won't be found out

That seems to me just like a plain description of 'business'. Of course as rule of law becomes more effective, the chances of being found out increases, and cheating/corruption declines. But it's in the very nature of business everywhere to do these things where they are able.


I'd expect any country that has the ability to do so to source such key infrastructure from those they trust, whether it be locally or allies they expect to have for the long term. It's up to the rest of the world to decide what that means for themselves.

Now personally, I think that you are making a bit of a false equivalence, but like I said in my first post, the bar for decision making here is lower than what we can prove to each other. If we can't agree on this point, so be it. If you think your country's interests are better served by building up your communications networks with Huawei and not Cisco, or Ericsson, or whoever, that's up to you(r country). I'd like to think that most Western liberal democracies would not come to that conclusion though.


Whether or not other countries should US suppliers isn’t relevant to our own decision making process.


Is that relevant? Even a serial killer wouldn’t want to pick up a hitchhiker who he knows is also a serial killer.


How does that have anything to do with how the US decides to deal with Huawei or China for that matter?


It seems you’re going on the assumption only the US spies and no one including its allies spies on the US back. The rules of the game have always applied to the US. You just only hear about what the US is doing.


Hey, as a Mexican I am offended that you think this is good for the emerging world. I prefer to live in a world dominated by the US (as my country's has been almost since our independence) than one dominated by China (or the EU or Russia for that matter). In any case, I think they have a right to mistreat Huawei as they wish since we are talking about their own country. Then again, if we are to talk equality, who is the US and who is China? Who benefits from Huawei getting a free pass? The Chinese masters (Deng and his cronies) or the average Chinese?


Oh, since you put it that way... We should just invite all the world's spies right into the country unimpeeded.


Perhaps we've banned Huawei because they don't allow their phones to be hacked by the US? Nothing the US claims can be relied on, so we should continue looking critically at why the US government wants to block their use rather than take the US' claims at face value.


It's irrelevant whether they are doing it or not right now. Because they could obviously start doing it at any point. And this is a country that makes the US's record on surveillance and human rights look like nothing.


The face value reason is a good enough reason not to allow a rival power’s equipment into the telecom backbone, though.


You know in China they're saying about Apple, "we're talking about letting a company under the control of The United States, the country responsible for ongoing mass-scale industrial espionage at every level of our economy, build the core communications network for our country. It's insanity that it's even open for discussion."

It's all about perspective. There is no vendor free of government influence. You just have to pick the least bad.


The media today has descended into opinion, disinformation, fud, fakery, outrage and whatever it takes to get clicks today with no regard to reputation and viability tomorrow. It’s a race to the bottom for ad dollars. It’s such a shame it’s come to this.

I don’t think we can even question journalistic rigor since it’s hard to believe their editors care.

Imagine your mother in a dispute with a neighbor, and you question your mother right in front of the neighbor. No, not all competitors are equal. The consequences of choosing one over the other is more than who will do the dishes tonight.


This topic feels like the geopolitics equivalent of that misquoted Voltaire pseudo-aphorism about free speech. Fun sidebar: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/peter-shawn-taylor-voltaire...


> [..] but there was no smoking gun that proved that the company was spying — only that it could at the request of Beijing. [China] doesn’t have a single law that can compel a company to spy on its behalf or put backdoors in its products [..] the government doesn’t need a law

> Yet ironically, it’s the U.S. and the U.K. — and more recently Australia — that have laws in place that can in fact compel a company to turn over data, or force a company to install backdoors.

Indeed, western national security politics is schizoprenic and hypocritical and can't be taken seriously.

Instead of worrying specifically so much about Huawei, put funding towards developing secure communications technologies that render backdoors in communications backbones obsolete. This would also protect your own citizens against your own overreaching intelligence services.


From the article:

>Only this week, the U.S. said it doesn’t need to show proof, citing the company’s ability to be "leveraged by the Chinese government."

This is actually a valid argument. The leverage is all that is needed for there to be a real threat.

However, it is also another reason responsible countries, which could include the US if it wants to be one <cough>, should not allow the creation of laws that would give them analogous leverage over equipment makers in their own countries.

In other words, no back doors, and no "it's not a back door because we call it something different" back doors either, or else the US does not get to make this argument against Huawei.


Regardless of what Huawei has or hasn't done, it's written into Chinese law that Chinese organizations are oblidged to assist in espionage operations when needed. This means that companies like Huawei must be considered a national security threat by China's rivals. I'm sure China would view US companies in a similar way.


One could imagine various countries contributing to large open hardware projects and those governments preferring to use specific components that were manufactured 'locally.' That way you theoretically know what a part does, how it works, and you know it was at least not manufactured somewhere that worries you.

I wonder if the cost of local manufacture would just be too high for the economics to work (edit: it would certainly help create jobs anyway)


That's a cost-benefit equation that every country needs to make for itself, but it's one that you see frequently in defense contracting - a country will be perfectly happy to buy e.g. a tank design (and several hundred examples) from a foreign country, as long as it includes the know-how to manufacture them locally.

For example, in the rather interesting Israeli case, purchase of the F-35 was conditioned on Israel being able to replace the avionics, which are probably the part most vulnerable to unnoticeable tampering.


Local manufacture could still be compromised by employees working for foreign governments, compromised suppliers, parts or finished goods being intercepted or modified during shipment, etc.


I'm not sure "national security" and "without proof, is it a threat" go together. In national security, you make your best estimate, with evidence, but often with less than proof.


All closed-source networking equipment is a national threat. Public infrastructure should use public, freely auditable technology.

I know that technically telecom networks are privately owned, but they've become a vital utility to the public at this point, and should be treated as such imo.


There is proof of a nation forcing its companies to give access so that it can spy on nationals not just at home but also abroad. The offending nation is the USA. And for those who believe this was 'legitimate' and to fight terrorism please note they were also caught spying on Angela Merkel to gain commercial advantage during TTIP discussions. And now the insinuations and slander orchestrated at government level to try to bring down a company that is beating them in the marketplace is further proof that the US government will do anything it can to give US companies an unfair advantage Suggesting we should not deal with the Chinese because we 'cannot trust them' is downright racist. I do not necessarily look for 'proof beyond reasonable doubt; but today NOTHING has been offered apart from rumours.

The best way of avoiding conflict is to have deep rooted commercial interactions such that there is too much to lose from falling out with your neighbours. It has worked in Europe with the EU. Trump seems intent on destroying the existing deeply interwoven supply chains involved in technology today. No US chips in Chinese products and vica versa. Seems like preparations for conflict.


I've heard someone make the opinion that the only main US is so worked up about Huawei is the nsa can't get they're own backdoor in the equipment


Let's be clear. The US isn't the only one getting worked up here.

It's the Five Eyes alliance countries as well as the EU and handfuls of other countries. Even if the NSA had backdoors in all of the equipment I would be much happier it be the US using the data than China.

At least in US you have courts and journalists which will hold the government to account.




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