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Huawei Sting Offers Rare Glimpse of the U.S. Targeting a Chinese Giant (bloomberg.com)
152 points by moh_maya 43 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

As a side-side note, I do understand how journalists may want a career as writers and US articles tend to have pointless details/descriptions, but this is IMHO way too much:

>Khan was casually dressed in a dark peacoat, black button-up shirt, gray pants, and sneakers. Shurboff’s attire was more businesslike: a light blue dress shirt, gray sports jacket, black trousers, and brand-new leather shoes.

Thank you for saying this -- this kind of fluff filler annoys me too.

It always makes me think me of a kid padding an essay to reach the teacher's limit though I'm pretty sure that's not actually the case.

It's trying to add some "human interest" to the story. It annoys those of us who want "just the facts". But for others, it makes the story come alive.

I'll be slightly pedantic: the coating is almost certainly diamond-like carbon (DLC), not diamond.

DLC is a complicated class of materials, generally composed of amorphous carbon (no long-range order - kind of like glass) with the same kind of interatomic bonds you see in diamond (sp3 bonds). It's often applied by sputtering or ion beam deposition.

Diamond is sp3-bonded carbon with long-range crystalline order. It's most often made by chemical vapor deposition, which is slow and expensive compared to DLC deposition methods.

The DLC coating described in the article won't do much to reduce glass breakage. But it will greatly increase scratch resistance because it's nearly as hard as diamond.

Diamond doesn't melt unless you're heating it while it's also under enormous pressure to keep it from turning to graphite. It does ablate, or vaporize when hit with laser pulses. This is used to remove small graphite inclusions in diamond.

Off topic: over the next couple of years I'm looking to develop a small-scale ion-beam coating system for applying DLC as part of a single-piece-flow process cell. I currently send out my products for DLC coating, and the coater does a good job but they keep making process changes (which affects color) without warning me, so I want to bring it in-house to avoid that and to eliminate the need to batch components for them.

I would release the design as open source after it's completed. Sounds like you have some knowledge in this area so let me know if you'd be interested in collaborating!

> The FBI asked them to travel to Las Vegas and conduct a meeting with Huawei representatives at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show. Shurboff was outfitted with surveillance devices and recorded the conversation while a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter watched from safe distance.

Is this common practice for criminal investigations?

Seems like a pretty typical sting operation, except for the reporter.

>Seems like a pretty typical sting operation, except for the reporter.

I think that's the part that parent thought was unusual

Indeed, I would have thought it entirely compromises the judicial process too.

Super long read only to find out at the end, it might be nothing at all.

I wouldn’t necessarily say Meng being indicted is “nothing at all.” Nonetheless, the story does a great job of illustrating what type of activities LE must do during a type of operation and investigation of this magnitude.

Yep, this isn't the first story in recent memory from Bloomberg that smells like much ado about NOTHING. What's going on with them?

Perhaps the agenda is just negative PR on Huawei.

Perhaps US police have shoved too many of these cases under the rug and now they need a scape goat because it is becoming too obvious that US companies cannot bribe, influence, or demand justice from their own government when the opposition is "businesses" with the backing and protection of China.

"too obvious that US companies cannot bribe, influence, or demand justice from their own government"

In what alternative universe this is happening?!

Well Bloomberg reporters get bonuses based on how much the their stories move the market. Huawei is traded on the Shanghai Exchange so the incentives for the reporter are to make the stock tank (or pop, I guess).

> Well Bloomberg reporters get bonuses based on how much the their stories move the market.

Do you have any evidence of this?

> Bloomberg reporters get bonuses based on how much the their stories move the market.

I was surprised to learn this is true!


This article speculates but doesn't provide any actual evidence of anything other than the fact that they probably get compensated for reporting on things that impact the market... Which makes sense considering the nature of their publication.

It doesn't provide any proof that they encourage bogus reporting for the purpose of manipulating the market. There's a difference.

Except Huawei is not traded publicly.

Yeah my bad I guess Huawei culture Co LTD is something else.

> Well Bloomberg reporters get bonuses based on how much the their stories move the market.

This sounds made up?

It’s not made up, Bloomberg acknowledges it. https://www.businessinsider.com/bloomberg-reporters-compensa...

FTA: We asked Bloomberg about the practice. A company spokesperson acknowledged it.

"It isn't news unless it's true. At Bloomberg News, the most important news is actionable. That means we strive to be first to report surprises in markets that change behavior and we put a premium on reporting that reveals the biggest changes in relative value across all assets."

Reporting on changes and causing changes aren't the same thing. That's like saying that climate scientists are responsible for climate change because they're reporting on it.

"They recall the gemologist saying he’d analyzed the diamond glass sample and concluded that Huawei had blasted it with a 100-kilowatt laser, powerful enough to be used as a weapon."

What? how can you determine that from a piece of broke glass?

It's a bit of a tangent, but there's an entire field of study called "fractography" which is all about doing things exactly like that.

Further tangent: "a piece of broke glass" can exhibit interesting morphology... "mirror", "mist", and "hackle" are distinctive signatures of different fracture conditions.

Fascinating! Did not know about that subject until now. For anyone that studies material engineering even casually, it's an important sub-topic (I never took material engineering in college, that's why I was ignorant about this subject prior to your comment). On a related note, I found this cool related link on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Fracture_mechanics. Anyway, thanks again for the comment!

Laser melting is distinctive under a microscope.

the gemologist was

> an FBI expert in forensic gemology

and I can only presume they know what kind of power is required to melt diamond, and how it looks afterwards..

"melt" is really the wrong verb. It don't even think one can melt diamond. The correct verb would be "ablate".

If one delivers enough energy to a material in a small-enough space (eg with short-pulse from a focused laser), the material "vaporizes" down to a certain depth and the process starts all over again at the bottom of the void that was ablated away. You can drill through any film this way.

The point of the story is not whether the glass is "unbreakable" or not.

It is about the extent of the Huawei scandal.

So after Businessweek's story about Supermicro sending hacked boards to companies, the FBI director Wray deflected questions by saying

>“We have very specific policy that applies to us as law enforcement agencies to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation,”

Why are they now seeming to break that policy by confirming this investigation?

Political gain.

Basically, same as when 60 Minutes showed US bombers against protocol a short bit after Russia started waxing ISIS in Syria.

Doesn't seem like the FBI is confirming the investigation in this story. My read on this is that Bloomberg sourced it entirely to the Ahkan people.

Is it really standard practice to demand a sample be returned in original condition in 60 days?

Especially a sample of glass?

Surely the buyer would want to bend it, scratch it, coat it, paint it, etc. to determine if it's suitable for their usecases?

In my experience, it's typical for samples to be provided free (or for a nominal cost), with no strings attached. If there was anything 'secret' in them, they would be protected by copyright, trademarks and patents.

It sounds to me like this company didn't have any patentable technology, and was hoping they'd be protected by dubious 'no reverse engineering' contracts... Which they weren't...

This descriptions does not sound like it's about something that is "virtually unbreakable" :

"The sample looked like an ordinary piece of glass, 4 inches square and transparent on both sides. It’d been packed like the precious specimen its inventor, Adam Khan, believed it to be—placed on wax paper, nestled in a tray lined with silicon gel, enclosed in a plastic case, surrounded by air bags, sealed in a cardboard box—and then sent for testing to a laboratory in San Diego"

Well, diamond is very easy to break, because being hard also means it is very fragile. In other words, it is very easy for a fracture to propagate.

We actually broke low quality diamonds with a hammer. They are also very easy to burn.

What is very hard is scratching diamond. If you combine the properties of different materials like diamond on the surface, and something that absorbs impacts inside it could be a wonderful material.

It may very well be "virtually unbreakable" for the use case of something that's supposed to survive the rigors of life as a display for consumer electronics device.

Breaking it, of course, would be something that any device designer would do in the course of characterizing or evaluating it as a component for a new product.

Whether that would have been done on the first sample is something that's strictly between the AKhan and the evaluator.

Breaking the test material is essential. That's what determines the engineering limits of any applications, and also the failure modes for exceeded tolerances.

It's all fine and good if your device can survive a drop from 1m onto a hard floor without cracking or chipping, but if a fall from 2m then results in a cloud of razor-sharp glass flechettes, that shred all flesh in a 5m radius, you're probably not going to want that particular screen treatment in a consumer product.

But this test material was not supposed to be used for that, I guess. I'm not sure how they were supposed to evaluate it.

Personally, I'd want to do all of the following:

  Put it in a rock tumbler with a bunch of keys and coins.
  Scratch it with a steel razor blade.
  Drive a galvanized deck nail through it with a claw hammer.
  Drill a hole through it with a SiC drill bit.
  Heat it up with a propane torch.
  Put it in a freezer.
  Drop it from 2m onto a hard floor.
  Bend it in multiple directions.
  Pinch it until it cracks.
  Try to find a resonance frequency with ultrasound.
Most of those are potentially destructive.

Perhaps this one was more for optical properties? Refractive index, absorption spectra?

I wonder if someone were to test all breakable and non-breakable materials with ultrasound to try to find their resonance frequency (as you suggested, but with all materials), if they'd discover that there's some relationship between sound frequency and the "breakableness" or the "non-breakableness" of the material in question... intuition says that there's something there...

Also according to the agreement Huawei was not supposed to "break" it. I am not sure how they are supposed to evaluate it without scratching at it.

This one stood out to me too. What benefit it even is to get a sample of protective glass if you are not allowed to test it? ”Here. Look at it. Trust us that it’s super resistant to scratches”.

There are plenty of "unbreakable" coatings. It sounds like what makes this unique is that is was suitable as a display cover.

An initial evaluation would be measuring things like how much light energy of what frequencies is able to penetrate the coating. Is the viewing angle acceptable for a consumer device, etc.

Hitting it with a hammer can always come later when they determine that it is a good display glass first.

Scratching it is what was expected of the test since that's the reason you'd want to use diamond, to resist scratching.

Breaking it into a number of a pieces with a laser is beyond the scope of testing its ability to resist scratches.

No matter what they intended/wanted to do, they signed a contract not to break it. Ain't nothing much to debate there.

Well how would you ship glass to San Diego? It’s suppose to arrive safely to be tested in a lab. Not partly compromised by the time it gets there.

A marketing ruse?

beauty is skin deep, Huawei is ugly to bone...

I've read so many stories proclaiming Huawei's misdeeds yet nothing solid thus far, with all scenarios hanging on the hypothetical thread. Yet oddly, it is somehow working and skepticism after all is rooting certainty.

Sounds like the FBI is just flailing around, and latching onto bottom feeders in the smartphone components industry in an attempt to find dirt on Huawei. This case is a good example: AKHAN had 28 employees and was going on 80 in 2014, but now it only has 5 employees and has zero revenue.


Also, how does a startup without any sales dollars afford the services of Thompson Coburn LLP? And just LOL at Adam's final claim around disclosing the FBI investigation to help with landing a customer: do you think federal agents would have allowed him to break his non-disclosure agreements if this investigation had merit? Whole thing is pretty fishy

The Bloomberg reporter watching from a distance part was a bit weird. Also, independent of this alleged wrongdoing, the product itself clearly failed to get traction in the (mobile device) market, for reasons we can only speculate. Sure, they probably can't compete at the same level as juggernauts like Corning, but Gorilla Glass was adopted within a year of announcement back in 2008. Here we are 3 years after 2016, and presumably zero manufacturers are interested in the glass.

>Sounds like the FBI is just flailing around, and latching onto bottom feeders in an attempt to find dirt...

I find that hard to believe.

Is there anything that Huawei does that Western companies don't do, such as trying to steal their competitors secrets?



For any older person this is no news. Didn't we something like this with Hitachi in the 80s?

Of course the authorities try to ban purchases from foreign companies that steal American company's secrets, but they don't apply the same rule to American companies that steal other American companies secrets.

They also don't seem so eager to launch sting operations against American companies who aim to steal other American companies secrets.

Why would Huawei trying to steal some glass technology while it is not in the business sector at all? Logically it had nothing to gain there.

My instinct is anything our government screams at another country about, security-wise, is simply projecting the fear that everyone else is going to do the exact same thing our government is doing. Huawei might have back doors for the Chinese govt.? Oh, you mean like the FBI, NSA, and CIA have tried to (or maybe successfully) force(d) Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google to do?

When US intelligence goals directly oppose US business goals then the enemy has already won.

The goals of the US intelligence community should be completely independent of US business goals, unless they intersect legitimately because of security concerns, rather than anti-competitive practices.


Please don't break the guidelines like this.



I haven't downvoted any article or comment on HN. Lovely to see how welcoming this community is to newcomers.

On the public internet, sometimes you get a bad bounce. Sorry! Please feel free to continue to participate. Not all threads go off the rails like this.

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