Feeds

Chinese firm hits back at cyberspy claims

Huawei welcomes UK.gov backdoor probe

Security for virtualized datacentres

The enemy is everywhere

Huawei's BT 21CN contract award in 2005 effectively shut down British rival Marconi. The multi-billion-pound deal was approved by then-Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt, who is now a non-executive director of BT.

Huawei now competes globally against Silicon Valley-based Cisco and Juniper Networks on similar massive IP networking upgrades.

The firm also lists Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2's Spanish parent company Telefonica as major customers. Its main competitors in the mobile market are Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia-Siemens and Nortel.

The source added that BT had conducted an extensive and "industry leading" security investigation of the equipment, but said this had not satisfied intelligence officials.

Asked how the the security of its products compared to rivals, Huawei said: "Our customers, including top operators, audit Huawei in all aspects on an ongoing basis. We are confident about the safety of our equipment and the many long term partnerships formed with our customers is the best proof."

Dr Richard Clayton, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge, said that no programme of testing could guarantee security from a remote attack based on covert vulnerabilities. "It's no win for Huawei," he said. "Proving the absence of a backdoor is essentially impossible."

Asked if it would allow intelligence agencies to inspect its source code, the firm said: "Huawei is confident that its solutions meet the requirements of its customers and is open and willing to engage with relevant authorities to address their security concerns."

While industry and academic opinion suggests intelligence agencies' concerns over Huawei are moot, history shows they cannot be dismissed as paranoia. Foreign governments have been exposed as co-opting IT manufacturers to provide remote access to equipment before, although the culprits were not Chinese.

In the 1990s stories emerged that the US National Security Agency had for decades allegedly rigged the products of Swiss encryption firm Crypto AG. It was reportedly able to effortlessly decode secret diplomatic and military messages as a result. Similarly, the Israeli government - which probably has closer ties to its commercial technology sector than Beijing does - was accused in 2000 of spying via backdoors in wiretapping equipment supplied to US law enforcement by Comverse Infosys.

Both those firms have continued to thrive despite their alleged sidelines in espionage. For Huawei, the stain of an alleged association with the Chinese military is not likely to vanish. Yet with rapidly growing sales of more than $23bn last year, and increasing global market share, past experience suggests that perhaps it need not care.

For UK intelligence officials, meanwhile, the issue cannot be so easily dismissed. The equipment is already out there, relaying billions of our trivial and our important communications every day. If a backdoor is out there too, they are unlikely to discover it - until, perhaps, it's already too late. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.