Router Backdoors: Hacked by Chinese Part 2?

Router Backdoors: Hacked by Chinese Part 2?

Summary: We all remember code red, right? Come on, you know you were hit with it...

TOPICS: Networking

We all remember code red, right? Come on, you know you were hit with it..., ok, here's an image just in case you forgot:

Hacked by Chinese PCPro News out of the UK has written a story that I classify as xenophobic and unfair. PCPro spoke with the SecureTest company who asserted the following:

SecureTest believes spyware could be easily built into Asian-manufactured devices such as switches and routers, providing a simple backdoor for companies or governments in the Far East to listen in on communications.

"Organisations should change their security policies and procedures immediately," says Ken Munro, managing director of SecureTest. "This is a very real loophole that needs closing. The government needs to act fast."

What's really interesting is that the article goes on to show no proof that this is indeed a very real loophole that needs closing. They site no cases of any backdoors in any current routers sold from China. I will give Ken Munro and SecureTest this, I do believe that a Chinese company could build a backdoor into router firmware. I also believe U.S. companies, French companies, Japanese companies, etc. could do this. In fact, this could be put into any software or hardware that we buy. Actually, one could make the case that by providing such weak protections out of the box (like username=admin password=admin for administrative consoles), many companies already are including backdoors in their routers.225px-is_this_tomorrow.jpg

Unfortunately for SecureTest, and the Chinese people, the article is portrayed as if they've already discovered a router that has a backdoor made by the Chinese, which I do not believe was Ken's point. One would've thought that with the Beijing Olympics fast approaching, we would've been able to move past the views of McCarthyism and the Red Scare (see the image right in case you can't remember history class).

My point is this, when it comes to hacking and the security of our nation, there's very real threats that currently exist coming from China. Let's not sensationalize and invent new ones until we have to, or else we could have our next hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Topic: Networking

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Typo Alert

    Cite, not Site.

    Typo Alert: "They site no cases of any backdoors in any current routers sold from China."

    Correction: "They cite no cases of any backdoors in any current routers sold from China."

    Sorry to be nitpicking about typos, but this is probably because bloggers tend to write about web Sites and forget about the word "cite".....
  • RE: Router Backdoors: Hacked by Chinese Part 2?

    Wow. Great catch man, really. Maybe you should blog!
  • Never hit by Code Red

    Sure it made an attempt but was promptly blocked by our Firewall.
    • RE: Never hit by Code Red...

      Haha, really? So did your network not actually exist until after Code Red? Congrats if it's true, I'm sure you'd be one of the few that wasn't infected.

      Seriously, the point is that it was a very serious flaw that hit a lot of people, and made people fear hacking from China.

      • I wasn't hit either

        I have a Linksys BEFSR41 consumer grade NAT router to protect out private LAN with. I figured you had to buy into the social aspects of that worm to launch it on your network.
  • xenophobic?

    I really dislike authors and pundits who use loaded language as a way to scare people into silence. After all, who wants to accused of being a racist in middle of a public street? No one, and using words like xenophobic is the literary equivalent.

    That having been said, Nathan, facts are facts. China is a communist country. Their claims against Taiwan would force the US into a war. Logically therefore, they cannot be a friend. Friendship is mutually exclusive with the implications of their territorial goals.

    Why is it unreasonable to worry that the Chinese, which thanks to us have a monopoly on manufacturing just about everything, might be putting compromised firmware into devices to let them get hacked?

    As a security advisor, maybe you should get your head out of your PC, and look at the geopolitical goals of our trading partners.

    I suspect that you are using xenophobia as a way to hide from the ultimate conclusion which is that there is no security that you can't control yourself. If you can't make your own gun, your own battleship, your own ammo, your own food, own computers, own phones, what kind of security can you really have?

    And before you get into a huff, answer us this: Would Ernst & Young outsource their security to a company owned by a foreign government?

    Unless you say yes, put your head back into your PC case.
    • Did you actually read the article or is your head in your PC case?

      Obviously critical thinking is outside your abilities.

      Articles like this require a more thorough reading than the cursory look you gave it.

      His point was that anyone can manufacture back doors into anything they manufacture. Singling out China from the host of nations who manufacture devices is just irresponsible and akin to the days of the red scare.

      For your information, the U.S and China generally only buy from companies in their own countires when it comes to military supplies. One of the reasons behind that... relates to this article...
      • RE: Did you actually read the article...

        Thank you Been_Done_Before, it seems that you did get the point of the article, which I thought was obvious.

        Maybe we should single out the French next, I mean, who knows what they are putting in their wine!

        • There's a saying....

          ... over here in the UK. IIRC it is attributed to Churchill. It goes [i]"The British and the Germans are just squabbling cousins, the French are the real enemy of both"[/i]

          I look forward to your Francophobe article

          Vin francais n'est pas tres bon. Au revoir mon ami!
        • Ridiculous relativism

          I see political relativism has really now become an epidemic.

          So there is no difference between France and China then? You dont see ANY differentiation there?

          Somewhere in China at the Ministry of Information a party delegate has got to be reading this and laughing hysterically.

          By your logic, I suppose we should apply the same level of scrutiny to both Iran and the UK then?

          The notion that you treat all nations equally and dont categorize their threat level and respond to them accordingly is directly counter to the very foundation of sound security.

          I assume that anyone on this thread is a security professional so it is very disconcerting to see such naivete in play.

          Yes you watch ALL rivals, but you watch some just a bit more closely. China and Russia for example.
          • RE: Ridiculous Relativism

            There's a difference between watching one country closer
            than another and simply stating flat out that one country is
            guilty of doing something they haven't done.

            >>By your logic, I suppose we should apply the same level
            of >>scrutiny to both Iran and the UK then?

            Yeah, you're stretching a bit here. I'm not saying there is
            anything wrong with keeping a more watchful eye on
            China then the UK, but I am saying that it is wrong to flat
            out accuse a country of doing something they haven't. The
            fact is, when it comes to our critical infrastructure, we
            should be cautious about any place we get products from.

      • Ah yes...

        ... the "Boeing Rule".

        [i]"the U.S and China generally only buy from companies in their own countires when it comes to military supplies."[/i]

        You do know that USAF has placed a massive order with Airbus for tankers? The US Marines AV8B is really a British BAE Harrier, that British Aerospace is supplying key parts for the next generation of US fighters and that just about every US pilot for the last 40 years has sat in a British made Martin-Baker ejector seat.

        Just what I remember of the top of my head.......
      • Have you walked into a store lately?

        Where are your critical thinking skills?

        Walk into any store... %90 of the stuff is made in China.

        ** Logically ** it makes sense to focus on China.

        But I guess using your logic we should be worried about Tibet hiding secret backdoors into all those routers they are manufacturing...
    • RE: xenophobic?

      Mr. croberts,

      I believe if you re-read the article and don't, as you say, "get into a huff", you'll realize that I'm not claiming there isn't a very real threat from the Chinese. I simply state that the way the article was written makes it sound like this is already a known fact.

      • Point taken, but

        [i]"I simply state that the way the article was written makes it sound like this is already a known fact."[/i]

        It would not be very effective to let your "enemy" know which product had backdoors built in. They would simply stop buying them. Backdoors are also very hard to detect unless you want to spend your time picking through a dump of all the router code.

        Microsoft deftly illustrated the problem recently when a perfectly stable product threw a wobbler on 29th Feb. Backdoors and bugs share a common feature - they remain dormant and unobserved until triggered.
        • Microsoft is different. They have not yet

          fully come to terms with leap-years. 29th of february seems to be VERY difficult to get right for them.
      • Agreed

        I would agree that the "known fact" aspect is wrong unless someone shows us some compromised firmware.

        But by the same token, as you well know, security is about **assuming** the worst.

        You assume people will bring viruses into the company so you ban floppies and USB keychain drives.

        You assume laptops will get stolen so you encrypt the data on them.

        Why would it be wrong to assume that China, which is a geopolitical competitor not a friend by any stretch of the imagination, is in fact using it's manufacturing resources to gain a backdoor into private networks and systems.

        As an IT professional, I would feel negligent if I didn't consider the possibility and take pre-emptive measures.
        • RE: Agreed

          The reason it is wrong is that you are classifying it to one group. Why not just assume that all routers are backdoored? It's just as possible.

          It's also more important that you keep in mind the way the article was written, which made it seem like the Chinese had not only the capability to do this, but had already DONE IT.

          I'm not arguing it's possible. I'm not saying we shouldn't consider it. I'm aruging against fear based propaganda against one group of people.

    • China is pretty good at selling.

      As ANY good salesman can tell you: You DO NOT upset your customers, because what takes long to build, can be torn down in seconds.
      China is actually better off practically OWNING a big part of US (and others) economy. They have come a long way allready. Why would they willingly ruin their best source of income ?
      China is known for thinkin long term strategy and they would NOT compromise their current strong economic position.
      • Applies to drug dealers too

        Drug dealers need addicts to make money, but that doesn't prevent dealers from blowing away addicts if they become too troublesome. I'm sure anyone in a major city knows that.

        So even if the US is a needed customer at the moment, nothing is forever and a culture as old as China's is willing to wait to achieve it's ends.

        We, on the other hand, can't get over the idea of thinking past the next financial quarter.