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  • Blog, Security - Written by on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 15:30 - 23 Comments

    China’s Aussie ambassador denies Huawei spying


    blog We’ve been harping on for years about the need for anyone accusing Chinese networking vendor Huawei of spying for the Chinese Government to come up with direct evidence to prove the so far unproven allegations. That’s why, when Financial Review journalist Christopher Joye published similar allegations last week by the former head of US mega-agencies the CIA and NSA, our inclination was to ignore the controversy. After all, Joye has hardly covered himself in glory with his journalistic accuracy covering IT security stories in Australia recently. Plus, Huawei itself had this to say at the time:

    “This is tired nonsense we’ve been hearing for years, trotted out anew as a flimsy bright and shiny object to distract attention from the very real compromising of global networks and information that has been exposed in recent weeks. Misdirecting and slandering Huawei may feel okay because the company is Chinese-based – no harm, no foul, right? Wrong.

    Huawei is a world-proven multinational across 150 global markets that supports scores and scores of American livelihoods, and thousands more, indirectly, through $6 billion a year in procurements from American suppliers. Someone says they got some proof of some sort of threat? Okay. Then put up. Or shut up. Lacking proof in terms of the former, which seems clearly the case, this is politically-inspired and racist corporate defamation, nothing more.”

    And now we have, courtesy of Joye as well, with the input of veteran Defence writer John Kerin, an explicit denial by China’s ambassador to Australia, Chen Yuming, about the situation. We recommend you click here to read the whole article, but here’s the key paragraph:

    “Facts speak louder than words. There may be some people doing things the article referred to, but it is not Huawei or China for sure,” Ambassador Chen said. “China strongly condemns any defamation out of political motives of a Chinese company that enjoys high reputation in Australia and around the world.”

    We’ve been arguing precisely the same line for several years. We did it when The Australian newspaper came up with allegations that Australia’s own security agencies were investigating Huawei. We did it again when the National Broadband Network Company barred Huawei from participating in its billion-dollar contracts for networking gear. And no doubt we’ll be forced to do it again in future.

    If someone has some direct evidence that Huawei has been spying for the Chinese Government, then let them come forward with that evidence. So far all we have is hearsay and innuendo. And that is not enough, as Huawei and China’s Ambassador to Australia have clearly stated, when we’re talking about billion dollar contracts and the reputation of one of the world’s largest technology vendors. As Huawei has said, on this issue, “put up, or shut up”.

    There’s also a great irony here which I feel many people will find self-evident. Does it not demonstrate rampant hypocrisy, when the former head of the US Government’s National Security Agency, which has been proven to be spying on non-US citizens extensively through its intrusive PRISM program, in coalition with giant US tech vendors, accuses a Chinese company of doing the same, but without evidence? Sounds like an attempt to divert attention from the real story, to my mind.

    Image credit: Augmented Event, Creative Commons

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    1. atlarge
      Posted 23/07/2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink |

      The US has been shown to be spying, would it not be likely China is too?

      • Posted 23/07/2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink |

        I’m sure China is spying, but no evidence has been presented that it’s through Huawei.

        • Dan
          Posted 23/07/2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink |

          I’m sure you’ve heard what happens to those that speak out against the Government/Communist Party in China. It’s no surprise that there are virtually no leaks from within the Great Firewall.

          Not that I support baseless accusations. Personally I think that it is more likely an NSA supplied backdoor or two exists in Cisco IOS than a Chinese Government only access method in any Huawei fixed line or mobile infrastructure

          • Soth
            Posted 23/07/2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink |

            “I’m sure China is spying”
            We know why if Renai goes missing :o
            Yeah who can you trust these days eh.. Definitely not governments he he

    2. Peter Kelley
      Posted 23/07/2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink |

      The issue that occurs here is that if there is evidence then it is unlikely that the intelligence agencies concerned will reveal it because it will cast insights on how it was gathered which may compromise future operations. If there is not evidence then noone is going to speak up. Either way I don’t think evidence will be forthcoming.

      • Posted 23/07/2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink |


        Individuals or organisations should not make controversial claims in public, without evidence.

        • Brendan
          Posted 24/07/2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink |

          Quite a few reporters would be out of a job were that true.

          Half the news cycle runs on unsubstantiated rumor. :)

    3. Hubert Cumberdale
      Posted 23/07/2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink |

      So much concern about China spying but it was happening all along. Why the specific concern about Huawei? It is very curious… I guess it’s much harder to control technology from a Chinese company than an American one if your goal is to gather even more obscene amounts of data and store it in zettabyte sized boxes. If Australia was really sincere about our security we’d boycott ALL American and Chinese hardware and build it ourselves. We cant do it? Makes sense, it’s that sort of apathy that allows us to be spied on by our so called friends to begin with.

      • Dan
        Posted 23/07/2013 at 9:36 pm | Permalink |

        “If Australia was really sincere about our security we’d boycott ALL American and Chinese hardware and build it ourselves.”

        Swap “Australia” in that sentence for “Israel”, and American and Chinese for Russian and (well, pretty much any/everyone), then post it about 35 years ago in some letters-to-the-editor section of a daily rag over there, and pretty much that is what started the Israeli tech boom.

    4. Alex
      Posted 23/07/2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink |

      Fairly naive view of the world “If I haven’t seen the evidence, it doesn’t exist”

      • Posted 23/07/2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink |

        Can you say, strawman.

        In no way at all did this article say that the evidence doesn’t exist, nor did it suggest it doesn’t. What it did say is “So far all we have is hearsay and innuendo”, or in simple terms, people have got to stop creating FUD and actually have something to back up these claims, ie. put up or shut up.

      • Cybrwurm
        Posted 23/07/2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink |

        Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

    5. Rory
      Posted 24/07/2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink |

      I can offer an explanation for why australian officials don’t care about US spying. 1. we’re allies and the spying done would be minimal 2. We’re part of five eyes and excempt from most spying activities

      • Posted 24/07/2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink |

        Yes, because America would NEVER spy on its own population, let alone on one of it’s allies right?

    6. Posted 24/07/2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink |

      – If Huawei are not spying, they would deny it.
      – If Huawei are spying, they would deny it.

      I think that’s why it’s called spying… :o)

    7. Woolfe
      Posted 24/07/2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink |

      Ok, I think they are all spying.. BUT I can’t help think that maybe the push against Huawei was because they were somehow limiting the capability of US spying.

      Hey call me a conspiracy theorist, but it does kind of ring with a faint element of truth, and appeals to the perverse side of me.

      I agree we should just start making the stuff here, and then we can spy on them… MUAHAHAHA :-P

      • Brendan
        Posted 24/07/2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink |

        The only difference between American and Chinese electronic intelligence is that one is very loud and brash about it.

        Both are actively involved. All countries are. This is nothing new. Huawei is just lumbered with being at risk of direct state involvement. Whether it particularly wants that, or not.

        The US and China have been at it for many years on this. Huawei are just stuck in the middle.

    8. djos
      Posted 24/07/2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink |

      Some serious Pot calling the Kettle black action here!

      USA, go have a long hard look at yourself and come back when you’ve grown up and stopped spying on your allies!!!

    9. Rich
      Posted 24/07/2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink |

      China may well claim that Huawei enjoys high reputation in Australia and around the world. Problem is, Huawei aren’t quite perceived that way.

      Devices like the Huawei 3G Wifi router might be described as “entirely usable” but In the past, local users of their more expensive networking gear have had plenty of serious bugs to complain about, and without suitable resolution forthcoming. Cisco’s lawsuit against Huawei may have stalled, but it showed pretty clearly some bad behaviour from the Chinese company. Now they’ve annoyed the European Commission…

      • Posted 24/07/2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink |

        That’s actually a point, all the concern is over spying done directly from the telco level equipment (ie. DSLAMs, etc), but really those things don’t have any direct access externally and are only internally managed on the telco network.

        End user devices like 3G routers, etc, clearly have unrestricted internet access.

        “IF” there is any spying going on, it would seem quite logically that it would be done from the end devices, after all a little bit of metadata slipping through probably wouldn’t be noticed.

        • TrevorX
          Posted 26/07/2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink |

          Actually that’s the point – it is possible to analyse every single bit that leaves a network device. If there are ‘rogue’ bits, you can detect them. If there is encrypted traffic, you can detect it and track it.

          Then there’s the reverse engineering that can be done at the hardware level. Now few if any commercial entities will be doing this – it is expensive. But there is no question the US government would be doing this, and I will guarantee that if they discovered back doors or traffic snooping in Huawei equipment they wouldn’t keep quiet about it.

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