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The company that spooked the worldThe success of Chinas telecoms-equipment behemoth makes spies and politicians elsewhere nervous
Aug 4th 2012 | SAN FRANCISCO AND SHENZHEN
BANBURY, a little English town best known for a walk-on part in a nursery rhyme and as the eponymous origin of a fruitcake, is an unlikely fulcrum for the balance of power in the world of telecoms. But the Cyber Security Evaluation Centre set up there by Huawei, a Chinese telecoms giant, in 2010 marks a new way of persuading purchasers, and the British government, that equipment from the manufacturer that runs it can be trusted. It operates in close co-operation with GCHQ, Britains signals-intelligence agency, located conveniently just over the Cotswolds in Cheltenham. Its security-cleared staff, some of whom used to work for GCHQ, are responsible for making sure that the networking equipment and software that the Chinese firm wishes to sell to British telecoms companies are reliable, will only do what customers want them to do and cannot be exploited by cybercriminals or foreign spiesincluding Chinese ones.
Over the past ten years or so, Chinese telecoms firms such as Huawei and ZTE, another telecoms-equipment provider, have expanded from their vast home market to become global players. This is a worry not just for the rich-world incumbents under threat but also for those responsible for the integrity of critical infrastructure such as phone systems. They fear that the companies networking gear and software could be used by Chinas spooks to eavesdrop on sensitive communications, or that it might contain kill switches which would allow China to disable the systems involved in the event of a conflict. I think its ridiculous to allow a Chinese company with connections to the Chinese government and the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) to have access to a network, says Dmitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike, a web-security outfit.
Gladiator Security Forum