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Huawei: We're just a corp whose intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don't let us be misunderstood.

Posted By TelecomTV One , 25 October 2012 | 2 Comments | (0)
Tags: Huawei ZTE Technology cyber-security espionage

In an effort to prevent a likely black-listing in the Lucky Country, John Lord, the top bod for Huawei in Australia says the Chinese company is as straight as a die, has no hidden agenda, is not in thrall to the Chinese government, is completely independent and will become so transparent that anyone will be able to see right through it. The trouble is a lot of people already can. Martyn Warwick reports.

Meanwhile, and better late than never, the alarm bells are starting to ring over in the UK where the former assistant chief of the nation's defence staff is questioning the ambitions and machinations of the likes of Huawei and ZTE. Major General Johnathan Shaw has publicly called for the government and its agencies and also for private companies to critically review their relationships with Chinese telecoms equipment manufacturers.

His words echo mounting concerns already voiced in Australia, Canada and the US about the potential for Chinese kit integrated into national and corporate comms networks to compromise national security and become a gateway for political, economic and commercial espionage and a portal through which to conduct cyber warfare.

In an interview held with the investigative website Exaro, the ex-head of Britain's cyber-security opined that the UK government, in relentlessly pursuing its obsession with austerity, outsourcing and buying everything at the lowest price possible in pursuit of short-term economic (and political) aims, is favouring the economy over the country's national security.

The intervention came a month or so after the British Prime Minister, David Cameron held a little-publicised meeting at 10 Downing Street with the elusive and very self-effacing Ren Zhengfei, the founder and chief executive of Huawei. The prime minister praised the company and announced that his administration has "no plans" to amend or alter its dealings with either Huaewi or its 'rival'  ZTE.

This, it seems, was the last straw for the man, who, until April this year had been in charge of the country's cyber-security. In the Exaro interview, Jonathan Shaw said, “The [UK] economy is in such a mess that the government feels that it has to compromise on security in favour of continued economic freedom. Certainly there are enough people in the [intelligence and law enforcement] agencies who are saying that, but they are also aware of the economic cost of not dealing with Huawei.

The concern over corporate espionage is a bit like global warming. It is not today’s issue, but, by God, it is there.”

He added, "“There is the very real fear that the extent of Huawei’s current telecoms penetration could mean that in the long term we shall have lost so much intellectual property by the time we put our house in order that there will be no economy left to recover.”

Try as he might to play down concerns about Huawei's antecedents and intentions, David Cameron may yet be forced to change his mind about putting so many British eggs in a Chinese basket. The subject may be a slow burner but it won't go out and could burst into flame at any time if new evidence is adduced as to any hidden agendas on the part of the Chinese comms manufacturers.

Meanwhile both Huawei and ZTE continue to deny allegations that equipment from their respective companies comes complete with secretly embedded coding to enable them to conduct covert surveillance on communications traffic and to help bolster the efficiency and disruption of cyber attacks against western interests. They refute allegations that they have any direct links to, or take orders from the Chinese government or military.

In Australia, John Lord, in an affort to stem the tide of opprobrium flowing againist Huawei has admitted that the company has "done a poor job of communicating about itself and in trying to dispel myths about itself."

No , what as actually happened is that Huawei has been arrogant and secretive and is now paying the price for its intransigence and hubris.

Mr. Lord also says,"Huawei has a duty to set the record straight and to dispel misinformation." That could take quite some time.

As for transparency, well, as the late, great George Formby so pithily put it, "It's a job that just suits me, a window cleaner you would be If you can see what I can see when I'm cleaning windows. The blushing bride, she looks divine, the bridegroom he is doing fine; I'd rather have his job than mine, when I'm cleaning windows.


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(1) 25 October 2012 16:34:54 by Eddie Duffy

Doesn't this sound a bit like American based companies persuading the US government not to buy products from China. What about Cisco and Apple who get virtually all their products from China and the Far East! How would they know whats inside their products!, they are just giant marketing companies making profit from Chinese workers but criticising China for doing business directly..Good luck HUAWEI! you get my support!

(2) 25 October 2012 17:08:54 by Steve Robinson

1) It says something about the state of telecom affairs that most of your readers probably "get" the song reference that is 48 years old! :)
2) The US government report warned of other issues besides cyber spying but every western intelligence agency has reported significant industrial espionage perpetrated by Chinese "actors" for over 15 years. Why do we naively think the the intellectual property being stolen is limited to Rolexes and Gucci bags??
3) Comrade Ren runs a high profile, "national champion" company in a totalitarian state with non-transparent laws and justice and regular abuses of same. He is always one miss-step away from the fate of Bo XiLai. His company holds its finger on the power buttons of significant non-government strategic infrastructure (and I believe mobile and internet infrastructure is strategic). If President Hu says, "Turn off the switch", Comrade Ren can certainly say no - and buy his own bullet.
Would they ever do this? - highly unlikely
COULD they ever do this? - absolutely
Should we ever allow this low-risk, high consequence option? - absolutely not