Dear China: Cut out the sneaky spying shenanigans

Dear China: Cut out the sneaky spying shenanigans

Summary: Look, you're running dangerously close to ticking America off. It's this Huawei thing, believe it or not. You're starting to freak us out with all this sneaking around and spying on our computer gear.

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2011-11-04-china
China's troubled relationship with America

Pssst... Hey, China! Can we talk? Yeah, you. You country of 1.3 billion people, we gotta have a conversation.

Look, you're running dangerously close to ticking America off. It's this Huawei thing, believe it or not. You're starting to freak us out with all this sneaking around and spying on our computer gear.

Yeah, I know you deny it, but you and I both know it's something you'd do.

See Also: Researcher reveals ease of Huawei router access
See Also: U.K. to probe Huawei, BT relationship

So, here's the thing: we're okay with competing with you in the open marketplace. If you want to hire people for a tenth of what we can, and shove them into dorms, and work them until they jump off the tops of buildings, most Americans either don't know about it, or are apparently relatively cool with that.

Sure, it means we're losing jobs here in America, and sure that seems like a crappy way to treat people, but if we can get our blingy gadgets for cheap, what the heck? Work those people. Some of us are waiting weeks for the new iPhone 5. Not me -- I'm not even willing to upgrade to iOS 6. I like maps that work. And I wrote an entire book about the issues of American jobs going to countries like China and India. I want jobs here in the U.S. So, I am NOT cool with it.

Anyway, what we don't like is the idea that you might have backdoors in our computers or that you might somehow be building trapdoors into the data centers you want to build in the U.S. We don't like the idea that you could tunnel in across the ocean in the middle of the night and just turn our stuff off.

If we want something that will just shut down on it's own, we have it. It's called the Blue Screen of Death.

See, Americans are all fine and dandy with being competed against, but we're also paranoid as all heck. We're willing to take a lot of time before being paranoid, because paranoia takes a lot of work, and we really would prefer to watch "New Girl" (no, I've never seen it) than organize and make a fuss.

See Also: Questionable loyalties: the cybersecurity implications of buying system software from foreign companies

Just remember, though -- if you freak us out too much, we'll get all pitch-forky and torches. Don't believe me? Look up Joe McCarthy in Wikipedia.

I know you've been watching the American elections and you're pretty sure that we Americans can't do anything in a cooperative fashion, but that's not really true.

So, if we're ever really able to prove that you're building machines for us that take Grandma's whiskey money from her behind her back, or can reach into our data centers and steal our medical or financial records, we will react.

See, there are American firms we allow to do that. We're fine with Google, Apple, and Facebook knowing all about us. After all, they provide us with services we like. I hadn't logged into Facebook for months, but the day I did, the site served me up with an ad about a little shop that delivered Greek food in my neighborhood.

How they knew I'd go for that, I'll never know. But it was of value to me, so I didn't mind that Facebook was reading my mind. Sadly, I live in the middle of Florida, a culturally desolate place, and so the Greek food delivery service lasted all of three feta wraps, but that's not the point.

The point is you need to cut this backdoor spying crap out (yes, I know you deny it). And tell Huawei to just stop bothering us. The company freaks us out.

Okay, do you want one final example that shows that if you go too far, we Americans will gather together, decide to boycott all your stuff, and go back to buying computers built in Fremont instead of by Foxconn?

(Aside: who names a company "Foxconn"? Seriously, "fox" and "conn"? Are you trying to advertise sneakiness and spying, or do you figure we're too dumb to work it out on our own??)

Anyway, you want proof that we'll wake up and smell the scam? Check this out. This week, the House Intelligence Committee (yeah, I know it's hard to put "The House" and "Intelligence" in the same sentence, but work with me) -- anyway, the House Intelligence Committee issued a report specifically warning against buying gear from Huawei and ZTA, calling these companies security risks.

You want to start quaking in fear? Here's something that should wake you up: this hearing and the conclusion were fully bi-partisan. Wrap that in a sandwich and try to say it: bi-partisan. We don't do anything bi-partisan in America anymore, especially less than a month before the Presidential election.

And yet, we bi-partisanly disapproved of your shenanigans. This is the first step. If you're freaking us out enough that we're willing to work together, you're waking us up. And when we wake up, we get angry.

Don't make us angry. You wouldn't like us when we're angry.

Editorial note: Last November, when I wrote a previous article warning about concerns regarding Huawei's security issues, I was contacted directly by William B. Plummer, Vice President, External Affairs for Huawei. He wanted to set up a phone call where he'd explain where I was wrong. When, instead, I offered to put him on camera and let him say anything he wanted directly to ZDNet's audience without editing, he terminated contact with me and has not responded to further emails. The offer still stands.

ZDNet Government China coverage:

Disclosure: Huawei has a partnership with Symantec. I was once an executive at Symantec (a long time ago, in a valley far, far away).

Topics: Security, Government, Government Asia, Government US, China

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

125 comments
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  • What?

    "we American's"? Apparently, we Americans still can't figure out when to use and when not to use apostrophes.

    And if you're going to talk about pitchforks and torches, are you sure you didn't mean Senator JOSEPH McCarthy?
    JLBer
    • Not enough coffee

      "We American's" need more coffee, apparently. Fixed. Thanks.
      David Gewirtz
      • Morning cure

        Whoever can find a cheap way to inject caffeine directly into the bloodsteam will be rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Oh, and you also did it at "See, American's are all fine..."

        And I still think you're talking about Joseph McCarthy, not Eugene McCarthy. He's the one whom the term "McCarthyism" was named after. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_McCarthy
        JLBer
        • Ah, double crap!

          Okay, back to the editor. This is what happens when I write in the morning.
          David Gewirtz
          • Not Alone

            Believe me, I understand your pain! Pepsi Max + B-vitamin complex are my saviors, because I can't stand coffee. Hopefully, the rest of the day will go better for you.
            JLBer
          • More drastic measures

            Orange Juice with added vitamins, a cup of Joe, and at least one can of No Fear Energy drink.

            Chuckle..... ;-)
            rhonin
          • MORE coffee needed...

            On its own :)
            15israellai
          • I feel for you

            same thing happens to me sometimes and all I hear is about the delivery, not the message. So OK, I'm human, I make mistakes. Can you get passed that? Still craving idolatry? Turn to religion, sports or politics, they're catering to that. In the meantime, interesting article but we sponsor China's spying and shoddy quality. It's also up to us to spend money on other countries that do a better job, need our wallet dollars more and counter balance the dance of the two production behemoths.
            33Nick
        • Who is McCarthy, and what did he do or say that was wrong?

          Inquiring minds want to know.
          adornoe
          • McCarthy was a senator in the 50s

            He started (or aided) something called the Red Scare or McCarthyism. Basically, he hunted down suspected communists and put them on trial in Congress. He helped create the Hollywood blacklists, and created a relatively scary environment of distrust where people were either forced to name names of people they considered communists or be blacklisted themselves. You can see how that could go bad -- and it did. It's a fascinating (and disturbing) phase in American history.
            David Gewirtz
          • I know/knew who McCarthy was, and I just wanted you to reveal what you

            think you know, and apparently, you are still using the same old talking points and the revised history which democrats wanted regarding McCarthy.

            It turns out that, McCarthy was right, and it's the progressives in congress and in Hollywood who were running scared, and needed to run scared, because McCarthy was onto them, and after them. McCarthy wasn't alone, but, he was a good scapegoat for the people who wanted to change the topic and call him a witch-hunter, instead of the hero which he actually was. Traitors need to be exposed, and McCarthy was actually doing so, even if at times, his methods may have seemed over-the-top.

            As it turns out, McCarthy was right, and if he were alive today, he would've revealed a lot more names which favor communism, such as Obama and many in congress, who have actually come out and revealed that, they do actually favor communism over capitalism and free market economies.

            The danger which we have today, is a lot bigger than when McCarthy was in congress, because, what he feared, is actually becoming reality for this country, with the likes of Obama and many socialists/communists openly serving in government. The bigger danger is that, far too many people don't see the danger.
            adornoe
          • Your kind are scary people.

            You think you can change history, but you cant.

            You should get lost redneck extremist.

            Next thing you will be telling us how Hitler was just misunderstood.

            People who think you can rewrite history thats already well documented live in a dangerous dreamworld. I hope there are not any children around you that your passing this crap onto or we will never get rid of this backward kind of thinking.

            There are enough zealots around the world, America has a right to complain about many of them but its a crying shame when those legitimate complaints fall on deaf ears because they are still growing their own extremists at an alarming rate.

            Get a real education and join the world in getting rid of extremism, dont promote it.
            Cayble
          • Actually, the people trying to rewrite history, are your kind,

            who undertook to demonize McCarthy as some sort of evil villain, while the reality would point to your kind as being the real evil in the country.

            The democrats back in the 50s have a lock on congress, and they were the ones who undertook to classify McCarthy as villainous, instead of the real danger which was amongst us. And, you are doing it again, with the likes of Obama and a bunch of other socialists and communists trying to ruin the country.

            He who writes history, gets to tell it his own way, and that is what the democrats did back in the 50s with McCarthy, and they keep doing the same with all other people who they dislike or go against democrats in politics and government.

            The facts are on my side, and, "redneck" or not (which I'm not), the facts don't lie. We are faced with the same evil, again, as in the 50s, except, they've become a lot more brazen and don't even bother to deny who they are, and what they stand for.

            You are just too too blind and ignorant to notice, and it's your type that is bringing down this country.

            Now, crawl back into your cave of denial, and leave those who care about the country alone.
            adornoe
          • What facts?

            The man led a committee in the legislation that launched investigations that fall into the enumerated powers of the executive. HUACs televised and recorded trials were abuses of the judiciary. He launched a campaign of terror, tread upon the constitution, and increased federal powers and bureaucracy. Whether he was right or wrong is your opinion, but those are the facts.
            tkejlboom
          • Don't you have it wrong?

            Don't you mean the Socialist state Republicans who have created a "socialism" of corporate entities by manipulation of the tax codes and laws of America. And you thought it was the Democrats?
            Altotus
          • You have absolutely no underrstanding of capitalism or what socialism

            is about.

            Socialism is a political ideology applied to governance. Capitalism is about corporation or any type of business being able to compete, free of any market manipulations that come from government.

            Any manipulations or intrusions from government, tend to warp the free-market system, and it doesn't matter who is in power or which political system they prefer.

            As it stands, most intrusions into the free-market has come by way of government, and mostly through democratic party initiatives, such as the green energy sector, which probably wouldn't even exist if it weren't for government subsidizing it. Free market manipulations are most prevalent during democrat administrations, such as what happened with the 837 billion stimulus program that the democrats and Obama injected into the economy. That failed, and we are in worse shape than we were before that government intrusion.

            Socialism exists in left-leaning ideologies, such as with progressive and liberals and communists. Conservatives and republicans has absolutely no use for socialism, and there have been some in the republican party who have advocated some form of socialism, at one time or another. That kind of republican is called a RINO, or, a republican in name only.

            Socialism at the corporate level is something that is, essentially, crony capitalism, and not true free-market capitalism. It's inexcusable, and mostly a result of those in government who feel that, government needs to interject itself into the economy. That's what democrats do, and republicans resist. That's why republicans would have preferred that, GM (as an example), go through bankruptcy restructuring than get "rescued" via government money. As it stands today, GM still owes the American people some $25 billion dollars from that rescue, which hasn't really rescued them.

            So, bluntly speaking, YES!!!!, it was the democrats who have destroyed the free-market system. We are witnessing that every day, and it's right in front of your eyes, on a daily basis.
            adornoe
          • Actually the Stim succeeded.

            America was heading straight for a depression.

            We didn't have a depression, just a nasty assed recession.

            The Stimulus worked.

            apparently there are people living in some fantasy land where the economy, after being driven over the cliff, could bounce back to what it was before the cliff.

            But the economy went over the cliff because it was based on smoke and mirrors, false value, people looking at their homes as investments and not homes, and refinancing those unrealistically valued houses to pull non existent money out of them, then the financing and refi bundled and sold short.

            I wonder ... do people have a brain in their head? Or do they suffer a mental condition?

            Whatever the reason people don't seem too attached to reality, but I guess it's easier that way.

            .
            Rob Berman
          • Most people do have a brain in their heads, but, apparently, not you...

            since, you have not been paying attention to reality, which points to a huge failure of the "stim".

            Government taking from the economy, to redistribute, never works, and that "stim" would have been better redistributed to businesses and the people, rather than government selected projects, which only went to Obama's buddies and political allies. Every single one of those projects ended up in failure, and even Obama admitted as much, when he mentioned that, "those shovel-ready" projects, weren't so "shovel-ready". The money went down the toilet, and we'd be a lot better off if that money had been spent on the real economy, and not on some projects which benefited unions and democrat party partisans and Obama's supporters and buddies.

            All of that spent "stim" money went to add to the national debt, with no noticeable benefit to the economy.

            The economy was in recession between 2007/2008, but, it was already in recovery mode by the time Obama took office, because, most of the programs that were instituted as rescue packages, were voted on and implemented before Obama did take office, with one of those being, as you may recall, the auto bailouts.

            Fact is that, if the government had not undertaken to spend so much as soon as Obama took office, that the economy would be in much better shape, because, the people who do spend money who make the economy work, stopped spending for fear that, they could be taxed on that spending. Thus, the recession continued, and it's still continuing as we speak, no matter what the manipulated numbers say about a "recovery". We have not been in any kind of recovery, since, what we are witnessing is government spending with a budget deficit of more than a trillion dollars each year, and government having to borrow 44 cents for each dollar that it does spend, and a national debt at more than 16 trillion dollars, and 23 million people out of work or giving up, and companies still going out of business, and people still losing their homes and not expected recovery in the housing market for at least 10 years (if ever), and 50% of college graduates not able to find employment when they graduate, and 15 million more people having to go on food stamps because, they can't find jobs or can't earn enough to pay for their everyday necessities.

            If that's a recovery, and the stupid "stim" worked, then, you must be living in an alternate reality world.

            Now, get your head out of your rear, and start paying attention to reality.

            BTW, you can't refute any of the points I made, because, they are all facts. Plain and simple.
            adornoe
          • Actually it's more a Fascist state created by the Republicans.

            Or have we forgotten Halliburton, KBR and the private army Bush employed to keep the number of troops "off the books".

            And it is funny how people try re-writing McCarthyism and his waving of an "empty binder" while saying the binder contains names of commies .... sort of like Boehner waving an empty blue binder saying how it contained the Republican Budget ... mayhaps?

            I'm no fan of the Democrat BUT I refuse to tolerate Republican Idiocy.
            Rob Berman
          • Rob Berman: The real idiocy resides in minds like yours...

            where, you can't think beyond the talking points fed to you by the liberal press and the campaign agenda from Obama.

            McCarthyism is not as you would like to believe, and he has been proven right, by any one that wishes to approach the subject with an open mind. That you refuse to see the facts, is your problem, and not a problem with what McCarthy did or said.

            The "commies" charges were, in fact, truthful, and the record indicates that. But, since the history was rewritten by democrats, you are likely not going to get the facts, and you will forever refuse to investigate the real facts. You refuse to see the truth, and that is where the country goes automatically down the drain, with so many, like you, wishing to remain ignorant and then going to the polls to elect someone who shouldn't even be on the ballot.

            When it comes to budgets, the republicans have proposed budgets for every year they've been in office, but, the democrats continue blocking passage of it, or to even hear any discussions of them. For 3 years, Obama and the democrats have refused to pass a budget, with the intent of not being constrained by any budgets and doing as much spending as they can think up. That's not governance; that's a refusal to act responsibly for the good of the country.

            Your problem is that, you can't be bothered by the real facts, and you'll quickly adopt whatever comes out of the mouths of Obama and the democrats. But, try to use your head, instead of your rear.
            adornoe