Did Chinese security firm snag too many American security secrets before the barn door closed?

Summary:Just how much of Symantec's security code does and has Huawei had access to? And how much of a risk does that present to American interests?

Let me be upfront about this: I do not trust this Huawei company. On the one hand, they could be like any other enterprise, trying to sell their products all across the world. On the other hand, they have ties to the Chinese military and keep trying to insert themselves into America's networking infrastructure.

A few years ago, they tried to buy supercomputer technology by acquiring the assets of 3Leaf Systems. They tried to acquire networking giant 3Com back in 2008. Then, in 2010, they tried to insert themselves into the Sprint Nextel network.

In each of these cases, surprisingly wise heads in the U.S. government interceded and prevented the company's incursion into our security infrastructure.

Now, you need to understand that while Huawei could be just another technology company, it probably isn't. Their CEO is a former Chinese military officer, the company has known ties to the Chinese military, and -- as we sadly know -- there's some concern about China's behavior when it comes to the United States.

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Back in April, I wrote a piece expressing my concern about Symantec's joint venture with Huawei. I was very concerned that Huawei's code could find its way into all of our computers via Symantec's products (Disclosure: A long time ago, in a valley far, far away, I was an executive at Symantec).

Today, that threat may be reduced. I say "may" because there are still a lot of questions. Symantec is selling its stake in the joint venture back to Huawei.

Apparently, Symantec has chosen to distance itself from Huawei's worrisome security shenanigans and wants to cash out of the venture. Symantec employees will be reassigned. The troubling part of this story is that Symantec will be getting royalties for seven years on technology that Huawei is using. This, presumably, means that Symantec's security technology is visible and available to Huawei engineers.

And that's the crux of this entire issue: just how much of Symantec's security code does and has Huawei had access to? And how much of a risk does that present to American interests?

It remains a troubling relic of an ill-fated and ill-considered venture.

Articles on this from around the net:

I'll leave you with one final thought. Huawei sells a line of network security appliances in America. Don't. Buy. Them.

Thanks go to reader Dwight Kunder who pointed out this news to me this morning, just as I was having my first cup of coffee.

Topics: Security

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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