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Former Pentagon Analyst: China Has Backdoors To 80% of Telecoms 240

An anonymous reader writes "A former Pentagon analyst reports the Chinese government has 'pervasive access' to about 80 percent of the world's communications, and it is looking currently to nail down the remaining 20 percent. Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE Corporation are reportedly to blame for the industrial espionage. 'Not only do Huawei and ZTE power telecom infrastructure all around the world, but they're still growing. The two firms are the main beneficiaries for telecommunication projects taking place in Malaysia with DiGi, Globe in the Philippines, Megafon in Russia, Etisalat in the United Arab Emirates, America Movil in a number of countries, Tele Norte in Brazil, and Reliance in India.'"
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Former Pentagon Analyst: China Has Backdoors To 80% of Telecoms

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  • Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:09PM (#40652159)

    This "former pentagon analyst"... Did he have access to intelligence reports of this nature? If so, and he's disclosing this now, I'm assuming the relevant documentation would be available via a Freedom of Information Act request? Since disclosing classified intelligence would be an act of treason, you know.

    Just out of curiousity, this "former pentagon analyst" wouldn't happen to be employed with a defense firm now that would stand to profit from any products the company offers to combat this threat, would it? As many a scientist has uttered before, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." That doesn't change because we're discussing a matter of national security: You still have to put up, or shut up.

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:15PM (#40652205)

    I'm sure there is someone profiting off this. I'm also sure it's true. The problem is we don't require the source code to be free and readily available. THIS STUFF SHOULD BE PUBLIC INFORMATION!

    It might not stop hackers although it would give us the opportunity to lock down infrastructure. The code should be reviewed by security experts.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:17PM (#40652215)

    We even have the power to shutdown foreign companies like Megaupload w/o needing to prove they did anything wrong. But we're the "good" guys. So that makes it okay. After all we only killed 300,000 people this last decade, versus China who killed..... ummm..... wait there's something wrong with my theorem.

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by k(wi)r(kipedia) ( 2648849 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:20PM (#40652235)
    Right. The not so Fine Article is low on details. It makes a grand connection between two rather uncontroversial facts: (1) Chinese net equipment can be found in an overwhelming majority of countries around the world and (2) the Chinese engage in cyberwarfare (as does the US and a few other advanced countries). Conclusion:

    The Chinese government and the People's Liberation Army are so much into cyberwarfare now that they have looked at not just Huawei but also ZTE Corporation as providing through the equipment that they install in about 145 countries around in the world, and in 45 of the top 50 telecom centers around the world, the potential for backdooring into data.

    Emphasis added on the word potential. Now where's the proof (preferably from a chip teardown by a reputable hardware hacker or hacking group)?

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by number11 ( 129686 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:49PM (#40652391)

    This "former pentagon analyst" is a writer for WND, a rightwing web news site with all the credibility of the National Enquirer.

    Not to say that China wouldn't build backdoors into telco gear, of course they would. The US requires telcos to provide access for it to spy on calls, it wouldn't particularly surprise me if the Chinese just built it in without talking publicly about it. After WWII, many countries purchased Swiss encryption gear, and many years later it was divulged that the US had inserted a backdoor into that gear. Why would China, or telco gear, be any different?

    The fact is, around the world everyone should assume that anything done over a telephone is shared with unknown parties. Unless they've got trustworthy gear to encrypt calls end-to-end.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:53PM (#40652419)

    China has killed tens of millions of their own people under communism in the last 60-70 years. Huh? You think China's the nice or good guys??? Sarcasm doesn't bold well here.

  • by GiantRobotMonster ( 1159813 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:00PM (#40652457)

    I'm surprised at all the surprise?!
    I thought it was pretty common knowledge that Huawei and ZTE were run and funded by the Chinese Military.
    They have been using their financial muscle to undercut and bribe their equipment into as many countries telecoms infrastructure as they possibly can for over five years now.

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:15PM (#40652543)

    Article read like FUD.

    As a consequence, sources say that any information traversing "any" Huawei equipped network isn't safe unless it has military encryption.

    Wow, military grade encryption? Would that be, like, AES, one of the most widely deployed, tested, and recognized encryption schemes out there? Wow man, that stuff is hard to come by.

    I also like the implication that unless you have a VPN, it will still magically find its way out to Huawei regardless of what other network controls you have in place. Having backdoors is one thing, getting thru a firewall is something completely different.

    Sources add that most corporate telecommunications networks use "pretty light encryption" on their virtual private networks, or VPNs.

    Proprietary information could be not only spied upon but also could be altered and in some cases could be sabotaged.

    Someone want to explain to me the difference between "altered in transit" and "sabotaged"?

    Im sorry, when so many of the assertions in the article read like uninformed drivel, its kind of hard to take the headline seriously. I have a strong feeling that the person who wrote this doesnt understand any of the terms hes going on about.

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:20PM (#40652565)

    He's just ignoring the convenient fact that US has access to 100% by the same measuring stick.

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:26PM (#40652587)

    If I were China, I would put spying devices into hardware we build for well known American Telecom companies. Everything is made in China these days, with all the CAD files, firmware binaries, hardware schematics etc. all handed over to the factories in China.

    Why ruin your own brands when the American brands can get into more places.

  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:31PM (#40652617)

    If the source code were free and publicly available.... still... how do you verify the code on the device was compiled from the source you were given, and there's not a hardware component that changes the code after it's in memory?

  • It is a LIE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:36PM (#40652639) Journal
    There are all sorts of ppl that are on this site, and others, saying to look the other way. The Chinese would NEVER spy on the west, or put in backdoors to use for an offensive attack. I mean, these ppl all know that the communist China are the good guys. Likewise, that bunch of Chinese naval ships caught 50 miles off the phillipines coast is a non-issue is well. The fact that they were close to a number of telecom trunks has no bearing on anything.

    So, relax. China will not try what they did to India. And the communists are heading towards being capitalists so there is no chance that they are working to kill off the west.
  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:59PM (#40652747) Journal

    Since disclosing classified intelligence would be an act of treason, you know.

    Espionage, not treason. Under American law, there's a very specific definition of treason.


  • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @11:04PM (#40653003)
    Exactly. More DHS scaremongering in yet another lame attempt to justify their existence. Started nine years ago it is now one of the largest departments in the entire federal government with 260,000 employees. Under the guise of combating "terrorism" - a very broad term that can mean whatever they want it to - and bolstered by the Patriot Act, this agency violates the rights of American citizens on a daily basis. And just like every other federal agency, it's never going away. It will only get larger.
  • Re:He's right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:00AM (#40653213) Homepage Journal

    No, THEY have. We keep getting the stuff they make, and they get US dollars.

    They don't always get dollars - due to the trade imbalance, they get IOUs. Our debt to China increases every year, and China can't cash in on it, because that would crash our economy completely, and they would get even less.

    We're like an old exiled royal who lives on debt - nobody dares to call him out on being insolvent and having a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting to his former riches, because that would make the chits and IOUs people hold (much of it from when he was solvent) worthless. So everyone continues to lend him money to keep the pretence of solvency and prevent him from defaulting, yet will quietly sell off the debt to new players if given a chance.

  • Bollocks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:27AM (#40653295)

    The source article is on [], which is a pretty wacky looking right wing "news" site. Its top stories currently are :

    Gun shop veto draws legal fight
    Traveler says no to U.S. internal checkpoints
    Blogger: Why don't blacks behave?
    Cross-bearing Texas teen arrives In D.C.
    Reviewer: It doesn't look like we're repenting
    Poll: Majority favor extending all Bush tax rates

    Detecting a trend?
    Anyway the article in question simply says that 1) Chinese companies make most of the telecom switching gear. 2) Therefore, China's military has backdoored it all and is spying on every byte anyone transmits.

    Of course, this is conceivable, but there isn't a shred of evidence. Spying on such a huge scale would require huge infrastructure and data transmission, basically duplicating the entire Internet. That might be detectable.

  • Re:It is a LIE (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:40AM (#40653343) Journal
    China would be propping up economies only IF it were buying other goods from other nations. Instead, it cheats by fixing their money to western money, subsidizing and dumping on foreign markets thereby destroying western economies, and then blocking everything except for nations that they want to woo, or have raw resources.

    China's action are a big part of why we are having a meltdown in the global economy 5 years ago and now again.
  • Re:He's right. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pdabbadabba ( 720526 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @12:40AM (#40653345) Homepage

    What, according to this theory, accounts for the fact that everyone in the world, including China, continue to buy newly issued U.S. debt at historically low interest rates?

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @02:55AM (#40653827)

    Well said. To which I will add this reference:

    The Black Book of Communism - translated by Jonathan Murphy and Mark Kramer [] - available at Barnes & Nobel [] and Amazon [].

    Review by Daniel J. Mahoney, American Enterprise, of: The Black Book of Communism []

    The six contributors to this book are all French, and all hail from the Left. The book's original publication in France created a sensation, because its cumulative effect is to establish that Communism is the twentieth century's fiercest practitioner of state violence and "crimes against humanity." It forthrightly challenges the claim that Nazism has a monopoly on "absolute political evil" in our time.

    The chapters on the Soviet Union and China are as powerful as they are in large part because their authors, Nicolas Werth and Jean-Louis Margolin, avoid excessive polemics and allow the evidence to simply speak for itself. If anything, Werth is excessively conservative in his estimates, drawing almost exclusively from not always reliable "official" party and state archival materials to verify politically--inspired deaths and incarcerations in the Soviet Union. Despite the limits of this method, Werth concludes that the Bolshevik regime was responsible, directly or indirectly, for the deaths of 20 million people between 1918 and 1956, and for the imprisonment in camps of millions more. He demolishes the notion of a good Lenin and a bad Stalin by showing that terror defined the Soviet regime from its inception. And he concludes that there is no basis for the claim that the terror of the 1930s was driven by overzealous Party and police officials acting independently of orders.

    Likewise, Margolin's chapter on China shows that the crimes of Maoism are rooted in ideological hubris and a denial of the humanity of political or class "enemies." Margolin demonstrates that Mao committed crimes unprecedented in Chinese history, and damaged the nation in everything from economics to ethics. The devastating consequences of Mao's rule: 65 million lost lives. Perhaps the deepest reason The Black Book has sparked controversy is that it argues Communism is as intrinsically perverse as Nazism. Editor Stephane Courtois argues that Communist crimes, like Nazi ones, partake of the desire to eliminate groups of people on the basis of their origins, not because of any individual culpability or responsibility. He denies that Communism's crimes have any right to be excused or qualified because they were committed in the name of egalitarian principles. Courtois shows that Communism is an exterminationist ideology which selects its enemies on the basis of class. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn suggested in The Gulag Archipelago that the USSR's war against the independent peasantry--the so-called "de-kulakization" campaign --was the first systematic effort to eliminate an entire class of people for ideological reasons. In this sense, Hitler was Lenin's and Stalin's faithful pupil.

    Why Doesn't Communism Have as Bad a Name as Nazism? []

  • Re:He's right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @07:02AM (#40654631) Homepage Journal

    What, according to this theory, accounts for the fact that everyone in the world, including China, continue to buy newly issued U.S. debt at historically low interest rates?

    It's already answered in the very post you reply to.
    But, in smaller spoonfuls, consider this:

    You lend $100,000 to John, an upstanding fellow. Then John loses his job and starts drinking. He then comes to you and says "I fear I'm going to default on my loans and have to file for bankruptcy unless someone can lend me $5,000 at low interest".
    You now have the choice of:
    (a) lending him the money and hope that either
        (a1) you get to sell the debt at a smaller loss before he goes bankrupt, or that
        (a2) John manages to get back in shape enough to pay his interest rates. ... or
    (b) refusing his plea, and watch him file for bankruptcy, making it
        (b1) a certainty that you'll lose the entire $100,000, and
        (b2) a distinct possibility that John gets so pissed that he carpet bombs your house.

    Your best bet may be to lend him the money and try to convince others that he's solvent.

    This isn't a new type of dilemma - it's happened quite a few times in history, often in the final time before bubbles burst.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson