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US Lawmakers scared of Huawei and ZTE. Should we also be worried?

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ZTE, Huawei

ZTE, HuaweiA U.S congressional investigation concluded that the two Chinese telecommunications giants, Huawei Technologies Inc., and ZTE Inc pose potential risks to their national security. The US’s worries come from the fact that the two entities receive significant funding directly from the Chinese government. The two tech firms have experienced growth, rapidly expanding worldwide especially in emerging markets, Zimbabwe included, mainly due to low cost telecoms infrastructure.

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Reuters reports that the lawmakers found that companies that had used Huawei equipment had reported “numerous allegations” of unexpected behavior, including routers supposedly sending large data packs to China late at night.

In a press release by Huawei, the company vehemently denies any suggestions that it is linked with any espionage attempts or under the influence of Beijing. Whether any of the US’s concerns are substantial or based mainly out of fear, or merely trade protectionism, no one knows.

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The US is not the only country to block Huawei, India has also previously expressed concerns over the security threats posed by the Chinese behemoth. Australia also blocked Huawei from bidding on their national broadband plan.

The two companies have however largely been at the forefront of Africa’s mobile revolution, fueling it with friendly funding terms and the low cost equipment. Even though deals with European players like Ericsson happen here and there, the heavy and deliberate presence of the Chinese operators on the continent is clear. The rapid expansion for example of Zimbabwe’s mobile telephony in the past 3 years has been built atop the equipment supplied by these two giants.

Do you think we have anything to fear? Or are we immune to the rise of cyber espionage since we are relatively a small player on the global scene?

Is there any other option for us other than continuing our use of the low cost equipment? Would our telecoms operators have afforded the rapid expansion of their networks they have all registered in the past few years? Interestingly, I am writing this piece connected to the internet through a ZTE modem.

What are your thoughts and views on the issue. Is it a matter of Goliath crushing David? Or do these companies really pose national security risks? Substantial claims by the US or just a case of impeding competition?

image via mobisights.com

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25 thoughts on “US Lawmakers scared of Huawei and ZTE. Should we also be worried?

  1. I think its a bit of both, there is a chance of espionage on the other hand there is the issue of market share. Traditionally Cisco has dominated the networking industry but its place is being undermined by Huawei and co. who give you essentially the same equipment (aka “clones” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huawei#Intellectual_property_rights) for a fraction of the price.

    In our case, its really a nobrainer, we do not manufacture alternatives to either Cisco et al and the Chinese, the quality (excluding support!) of Chinese products is at par with those from the US and Europe so it will always come down to cost. And who is to say that either party is not capable of espionage?

    1. The networking industry is not Huawei’s biggest fort though. CISCO is already being given a run for its money by the likes of Juniper. Concerns are on Huawei’s telecoms infrastructure having these back-doors. On a direct-consumer level, ZTE & Huawei ALSO dominate in the usb/pen-based devices…the 3G and wireless modems that are then branded by almost all big global mobile operators.

      Sure, we can be concerned, but there isnt much we can do, like you say.

      The US, naturally, has a supreme right to eavesdrop and conduct online surveillence on all other countries. With the new,advanced facial recognition tools and the voluntarily given private information(Facebook, Linked in, Twitter etc), it is really harmless, not chilling and so much fun!

      Oh, not forget that the world’s most popular desktop OS, Microsoft windows has backdoors for NSA,etc access and other harmless, playful things they could do.

      1. Those are just rumors my friend. f there were a back door, hackers would find it and exploit it. Aren’t they already reverse engineering the OS to find weaknesses? I can’t see MS adding such a thing without someone finding out about it. MS would have a huge PR problem when it was found and they will never take such a risky movie no matter what. And I dnt think they are really that close with the American gvt…….not sure now, the way the won the court case against Apple…could it be that it was a deal sealer? I doubt!

        1. Have you read the technical bits? There is reasonable cause for why the issues were raised. There’s a shadow of truth raised by technical people. Only Microsoft would and can say they are rumours. Saying so would also be echoing them as you cannot say with absolute certainity that they do not exist. Even if it were true, it would never be admitted. With every version especially from 2000 and XP, rumours would come up.

          If there were a back door, hackers would find it and exploit it. Aren’t
          they already reverse engineering the OS to find weaknesses?

          Not much sense in that statement

    2. “Cisco has dominated the networking industry but its place is being undermined by Huawei and co”

      It would be good to get our facts straight. Cisco and ZTE were actually in a partnership until recently. See http://www.zdnet.com/cisco-ends-zte-partnership-over-iran-probe-7000005384/.

      Regardless, of our political predisposition we ought to consider the evidence evenly. How can we account for packet data in excess of verified network activity, particularly when its intended destination is to a Chinese IP address? Confirming such activity is damning indeed. Furthermore, we are not talking about the US alone, but Australia, India, the UK, et al.

      Finally, we can hardly say that Chinese forays into Africa are altruistic; far from it. To suggest otherwise is entirely naive. Just because the equipment is cheaper does not ensure it is a better deal in the long run. On our network, we tend to replace Chinese makes twice as often as name brands like Cisco, Motorola, Netgear, etc. I am not sure if this is due to power cuts, power surges, or what. Whatever the reason the hardware is not as resilient. You also need to consider the performance thresholds as well. And the list goes on.

      Unfortunately, reading the comments on this thread, it seems we have a tendency to respond emotionally to this sort of news, having swallowed hook, line, and sinker the propaganda being spoon fed to us by the powers that be. Think critically, and engage thoughtfully.

      1. Your points make real sense. There is nothing though the Chinese companies may want from Zimbabwe in terms of security files because we can voluntarily offer them all the files. But other developed countries should really be worried especially some unaccounted for packages are found to moving towards China!

  2. I cant believe that in this day and age you take what the USA says seriously. We all know that these guys are out to to kill any organisation that poses serious competition to any of their companies. The USA want to have a monopoly on everything. Not long ago they downed the Russian made Sukhoi Superjet-100 in Indonesia which was on a flight to impress potential buyers in order to protect Boeing. As a result of the crash none of the potential buyers were interested in placing orders for the aircraft. The truth of matter is that the USA is shit scared of the rise of countries such as China, Iran and other BRICS nations that they are resorting to dirty tactics.

    1. In total agreement. Just check out the fight between Apple and Samsung. I think there is some state intervention to protect American firms but at the same time they are asking us to liberalize our markets. Its only for their benefits not ours.

      1. I think there is some state intervention to protect American firms but
        at the same time they are asking us to liberalize our markets. Its only
        for their benefits not ours.

        You,my friend, have summed up the major issue in the global trade debate.

      2. I may agree with your points but using the fight between Apple and Samsung as an example is a bit far-fetched. Apple fought Windows, is fighting Google and both are American Companies!

    1. True. Encryption is was actually classified as a weapon aka munition…by US law. There are even limitations and forced disclosure laws for any new encryption algorithms.

    2. AES is not American made, it was made by Belgian cryptographers, and as of now there is no backdoor to the encryption process, besides Brute Force, which is very inefficient unless if the key size used in the encryption process is small. AES is very safe don’t worry, for now at least.

  3. the threat of espionage cannot be ruled out but we really at this point do not have a choice. If you have a drought you eat the GMO grain and its cancerous side effects. but you may live up to 50. both ends East & West are playing a dominance game at various levels so it shouldnt come as a surprise. we are faced with the devil and the deep.

    the question maybe is whether or not we have mitigating factors within the provisions of out own ICT Policy in case of serious direct infringement.

  4. Lol, if there’s ever a World War 3, we’re supporting China. They’ve already picked our sides for us. Nothing discrete ever comes from China. Tototanga kutaura chiZhanga zvichakanaka.

  5. American telecoms industry is loosing a lot of business from Huawei and ZTE thus they are fabricating flimsy accusations against these two giants of espionage.

  6. hahah apa pakaoma wena it myt be so/not but lets wait for the time.the truth shall be revealed hopefully it wont be late

  7. Embedded hardware malware is not exactly unheard of so it wouldn’t be surprising if it turned out to be true, especially after stuxnet. The state of global economics/relations is such that some would try anything to get an edge, the Chinese and Americans included.
    Snap… just realised i may never be able to catch a commercial flight again after using half the monitored keywords to google this!

  8. Well, with all these countries blocking Huawei/ZTE, there may indeed be some espionage at play here. But at the same time, until these allegations have been proven to be true, beyond reasonable doubt by security researchers and experts there’s not much we can do IMO. Hard truth is we need their hardware.

  9. if its true then Huawei and ZTE will be dissapointed, Zim is fairly backward in technology use, look at how few banks offer comprehensive banking? look at even our national records, most of them are archived in file cabinets, so take all our watsapp and facebook message China, you’ll be LOLing all day and get nothing more

  10. Well given the fact that India and Australia too were affected that gives me the feeling that the Americans are doing a fair thing for their people and country of course. If only Zimbabwe was still Zimbabwe with a standards body equipped and ready to test every equipment, product that enters its borders we would feel safe. I have no doubt about the Chinese dudes and my bet would be that not all product from Huawei and ZTE are what they are supposed to be. How many times have people shipped diamonds in ARV containers claiming they are ARVs for the people of Zimbabwe or so . . It might not be true but we need to be alert .

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