Posts Tagged ‘cybersecurity’

Google CEO Sundar Pichai: Fears about artificial intelligence are ‘very legitimate’ — AI could prove to be “far more dangerous than nukes.”

December 13, 2018

AI could prove to be “far more dangerous than nukes,” Elon Musk says

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, head of one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence companies, said in an interview this week that concerns about harmful applications of the technology are “very legitimate” — but the tech industry should be trusted to responsibly regulate its use.

Speaking with The Washington Post on Tuesday afternoon, Pichai said that new AI tools — the backbone of such innovations as driverless cars and disease-detecting algorithms — require companies to set ethical guardrails and think through how the technology can be abused.

“I think tech has to realize it just can’t build it and then fix it,” Pichai said. “I think that doesn’t work.”

Tech giants have to ensure artificial intelligence with “agency of its own” doesn’t harm humankind, Pichai said. He said he is optimistic about the technology’s long-term benefits, but his assessment of the potential risks of AI parallels some tech critics, who contend the technology could be used to empower invasive surveillance, deadly weaponry and the spread of misinformation. Other tech executives, like SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, have offered more dire predictions that AI could prove to be “far more dangerous than nukes.”

By Tony Romm Drew Harwell Craig Timberg
Washington Post

Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Google’s AI technology underpins everything from the company’s controversial China project to the surfacing of hateful, conspiratorial videos on its YouTube subsidiary — a problem Pichai promised to address in the coming year. How Google decides to deploy its AI has also sparked recent employee unrest.

Pichai’s call for self-regulation followed his testimony in Congress, where lawmakers threatened to impose limits on technology in response to its misuse, including as a conduit for spreading misinformation and hate speech. His acknowledgment about the potential threats posed by AI was a critical assertion because the Indian-born engineer often has touted the world-shaping implications of automated systems that could learn and make decisions without human control.

Pichai said in the interview that lawmakers around the world are still trying to grasp AI’s effects and the potential need for government regulation. “Sometimes I worry people underestimate the scale of change that’s possible in the mid- to long term, and I think the questions are actually pretty complex,” he said. Other tech giants, including Microsoft, recently have embraced regulation of AI — both by the companies that create the technology and the governments that oversee its use.

But AI, if handled properly, could have “tremendous benefits,” Pichai explained, including helping doctors detect eye disease and other ailments through automated scans of health data. “Regulating a technology in its early days is hard, but I do think companies should self-regulate,” he said. “This is why we’ve tried hard to articulate a set of AI principles. We may not have gotten everything right, but we thought it was important to start a conversation.”

Pichai, who joined Google in 2004 and became chief executive 11 years later, in January called AI “one of the most important things that humanity is working on” and said it could prove to be “more profound” for human society than “electricity or fire.” But the race to perfect machines that can operate on their own has rekindled familiar fears that Silicon Valley’s corporate ethos — “move fast and break things,” as Facebook once put it — could result in powerful, imperfect technology eliminating jobs and harming people.

Within Google, its AI efforts also have created controversy: The company faced heavy criticism earlier this year because of its work on a Defense Department contract involving AI that could automatically tag cars, buildings and other objects for use in military drones. Some employees resigned because of what they called Google’s profiting off the “business of war.”

Asked about the employee backlash, Pichai told The Post that its workers were “an important part of our culture.” “They definitely have an input, and it’s an important input, it’s something I cherish,” he said.

In June, after announcing Google wouldn’t renew the contract next year, Pichai unveiled a set of AI-ethics principles that included general bans on developing systems that could be used to cause harm, damage human rights or aid in “surveillance violating internationally accepted norms.”

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Revealed: the advanced surveillance ‘black tech’ within reach of China’s police

The company faced criticism for releasing AI tools that could be misused in the wrong hands. Google’s release in 2015 of its internal machine-learning software, TensorFlow, has helped accelerate the wide-scale development of AI, but it has also been used to automate the creation of lifelike fake videos that have been used for harassment and disinformation.

Google and Pichai have defended the release by saying that keeping the technology restricted could lead to less public oversight and prevent developers and researchers from improving its capabilities in beneficial ways.

“Over time, as you make progress, I think it’s important to have conversations around ethics [and] bias and make simultaneous progress,” Pichai said during his interview with The Post.

“In some sense, you do want to develop ethical frameworks, engage non-computer scientists in the field early on,” he said. “You have to involve humanity in a more representative way because the technology is going to affect humanity.”

Pichai likened the early work to set parameters around AI to the academic community’s efforts in the early days of genetics research. “Many biologists started drawing lines on where the technology should go,” he said. “There’s been a lot of self-regulation by the academic community, which I think has been extraordinarily important.”

The Google executive said it would be most essential in the development of autonomous weapons, an issue that’s rankled tech executives and employees. In July, thousands of tech workers representing companies including Google signed a pledge against developing AI tools that could be programmed to kill.

Pichai also said he found some hateful, conspiratorial YouTube videos described in a Post story Tuesday “abhorrent” and indicated that the company would work to improve its systems for detecting problematic content. The videos, which together had been watched millions of times on YouTube since appearing in April, discussed baseless allegations that Democrat Hillary Clinton and her longtime aide Huma Abedin had attacked, killed and drank the blood of a girl.

Pichai said he had not seen the videos, which he was questioned about during the congressional hearing, and declined to say whether YouTube’s shortcomings in this area were a result of limits in the detection systems or in policies for evaluating whether a particular video should be removed. But he added, “You’ll see us in 2019 continue to do more here.”

Pichai also portrayed Google’s efforts to develop a new product for the government-controlled Chinese Internet market as preliminary, declining to say what the product might be or when it would come to market — if ever.

Dubbed Project Dragonfly, the effort has caused backlash among employees and human rights activists who warn about the possibility of Google assisting government surveillance in a country that tolerates little political dissent. When asked whether it’s possible that Google might make a product that allows Chinese officials to know who searches for sensitive terms, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre, Pichai said it was too soon to make any such judgments.

“It’s a hypothetical,” Pichai said. “We are so far away from being in that position.”



Google chief trusts AI makers to regulate the technology

December 13, 2018

Google chief Sundar Pichai said fears about artificial intelligence are valid but that the tech industry is up to the challenge of regulating itself, in an interview published on Wednesday.

Tech companies building AI should factor in ethics early in the process to make certain artificial intelligence with “agency of its own” doesn’t hurt people, Pichai said in an interview with the Washington Post.

“I think tech has to realize it just can’t build it, and then fix it,” Pichai said. “I think that doesn’t work.”

Google chief Sundar Pichai worries about harmful uses of AI are “very legitimate” but that the industry should be trusted to regulate its use. (File/AFP)

The California-based Internet giant is a leader in the development of AI, competing in the smart software race with titans such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Facebook.

Pichai said worries about harmful uses of AI are “very legitimate” but that the industry should be trusted to regulate its use.

“Regulating a technology in its early days is hard, but I do think companies should self-regulate,” he said.

“This is why we’ve tried hard to articulate a set of AI principles. We may not have gotten everything right, but we thought it was important to start a conversation.”

Google in June published a set of internal AI principles, the first being that AI should be socially beneficial.

“We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use,” Pichai said in a memo posted with the principles.

“As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right.”

Google vowed not to design or deploy AI for use in weapons, surveillance outside of international norms, or in technology aimed at violating human rights.

The company noted that it would continue to work with the military or governments in areas such as cybersecurity, training, recruitment, health care, and search-and-rescue.

AI is already used to recognize people in photos, filter unwanted content from online platforms, and enable cars to drive themselves.

The increasing capabilities of AI have triggered debate about whether computers that could think for themselves would help cure the world’s ills or turn on humanity as has been depicted in science fiction works.



China suspected in huge Marriott data breach — global espionage effort

December 13, 2018

Investigators believe hackers working on behalf of China’s main intelligence agency are responsible for a massive data breach involving the theft of personal information from as many as 500 million guests of the Marriott hotel chain, a US official said Tuesday.

Investigators suspect the hackers were working on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press.

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The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, said investigators were particularly concerned about the data breach in part because Marriott is frequently used by the military and government agencies.

Marriott, which announced the data breach on Nov. 30, has not disclosed what it knows about the source of the hack, which included the theft of credit card and passport numbers over four years from guests who stayed at hotels previously operated by Starwood.

Marriott acquired Starwood, which includes such brands as Sheraton, W Hotels and St. Regis, in 2016.

“Our primary objectives in this investigation are figuring out what occurred and how we can best help our guests,” Marriott spokeswoman Connie Kim said. “We have no information about the cause of this incident, and we have not speculated about the identity of the attacker.”

The revelation of suspected involvement by China comes amid heightened tension with the US over trade; the arrest in Canada on an American warrant of a top executive of Chinese electronics giant Huawei; and alarm among law enforcement officials about Chinese efforts to steal technology to bolster its growing economy.

President Donald Trump said he would get involved in the Huawei case if it would help produce a trade agreement with China, telling Reuters in an interview Tuesday that he would “intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Officials from the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that China is working to steal trade secrets and intellectual property from US companies in order to harm America’s economy and further its own development.

Chinese espionage efforts have become “the most severe counterintelligence threat facing our country today,” Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, told the committee. “Every rock we turn over, every time we looked for it, it’s not only there, it’s worse than we anticipated.”

Priestap said federal officials have been trying to convey the extent of the threat to business leaders and others in government. “The bottom line is they will do anything they can to achieve their aims,” he said.

Cyber-security expert Jesse Varsalone, of University of Maryland University College, said the Marriott hack does have signs of a foreign intelligence agency involvement. They included its duration and the fact that the information stolen, including details about travel by individuals, would be valuable to foreign spies.

“It’s about intelligence, human intelligence,” he said. “To me, it seems focused on tracking certain people.”

Priscilla Moriuchi of Recorded Future, an East Asia specialist who left the National Security Agency last year after a 12-year career, cautioned that no one has put out any actual data or indicators showing Chinese state actor involvement in the Marriott intrusion.

In the last few months, the Justice Department has filed several charges against Chinese hackers and intelligence officials. A case filed in October marked the first time that a Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence officer was extradited to the United States for trial.

Prosecutors allege the operative, Yanjun Xu, recruited employees of major aerospace companies, including GE Aviation, and attempted to persuade them to travel to China under the guise of giving a presentation at a university. He was charged with attempting to steal trade secrets from several American aviation and aerospace companies.

Such investigations can be time-consuming and difficult. The Justice Department is training prosecutors across the country to bring more of these cases, Assistant Attorney General John Demers told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We cannot tolerate a nation that steals the fruit of our brainpower,” he said.

The Associated Press

Germany Is Soft on Chinese Spying

December 10, 2018

Huawei has deep ties to the Chinese government. Berlin might let it build the country’s next generation of communications infrastructure anyway.

The logo of Chinese electronics company Huawei on Sept. 2, 2015 in Berlin. (John Macdougal/AFP/Getty Images)

The logo of Chinese electronics company Huawei on Sept. 2, 2015 in Berlin. (John Macdougal/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week, New Zealand decided to exclude the Chinese technology company Huawei from providing equipment to operate its 5G high-speed mobile network due to “significant national security risks.” The country follows Australia and the United States, which have also excluded Chinese companies from supplying 5G infrastructure.

In Germany, meanwhile, security has so far hardly played any role in the debate over the fifth generation of cellular technology. In the terms of reference published last week by the German Federal Network Agency for its 5G auction, security was not even included in the conditions for awarding the contract. In October, the government announced: “A concrete legal basis for the complete or partial exclusion of particular suppliers of 5G infrastructure in Germany does not exist and is not planned.”

That is dangerously misguided. As Australia’s intelligence chief has pointed out: “5G is not just fast data, it is also high-density connection of devices—human to human, human to machine and machine to machine.” 5G will carry communications we “rely on every day, from our health systems … to self-driving cars and through to the operation of our power and water supply.” 5G will be the backbone of our industries and societies. “Critical infrastructure” hardly gets more critical. And the security risks are accordingly high. Wherever Chinese technology companies supply 5G infrastructure, they will have access to huge volumes of sensitive data and industrial secrets—and there’s reason to think they would eventually be forced to spy on behalf of Beijing. The Chinese government could also use these companies to disrupt other countries’ infrastructure in a future conflict.

Given the massive cybersecurity and national security risks, the only responsible decision is for Berlin to follow the Australian, New Zealand, and U.S. lead and ban Chinese providers from the German 5G network. In doing so, Europe’s strongest economy would send a crucial signal to the rest of the European Union members that are grappling with the same decision.

Contrary to Huawei’s claims, the decisions by Australia, New Zealand, and the United States were not motivated by crude protectionism. In none of these three countries will domestic suppliers be the primary beneficiaries. The anomaly of the 5G market is that there is no leading U.S.-based supplier covering the full technological spectrum. The companies profiting from a ban on Huawei and ZTE are mainly two European companies: Nokia and Ericsson.

Still, those calling for banning Huawei face an uphill battle across Europe. Huawei has strong supporters (not least due to its very professional lobbying operation and deep ties within the political scene). It markets itself as a private company, which is organized as a cooperative and is in no way under the control of the Chinese state. Network operators such as Deutsche Telekom are among Huawei’s cheerleaders. Deutsche Telekom warns against excluding “high-performance suppliers” such as Huawei if the country wanted to build its 5G network quickly and at cost. Huawei already supplies much of the existing German 3G and 4G infrastructure.

For Deutsche Telekom and other network operators, the situation is clear: Huawei offers innovative and reliable products at highly competitive prices. Legally, Deutsche Telekom does not bear any liability for the security risks associated with Huawei technology. And the company does not care about the fact that Huawei’s price advantage is the result of a highly skewed playing field in China. In the world’s largest market, domestic providers control 75 percent of the market, giving them unbeatable economies of scale.

Remarkably, Huawei’s defenders also include the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), Germany’s cybersecurity agency. Its president, Arne Schönbohm, believes the agency has the capabilities to check on whether suppliers meet security requirements, providing “technically substantiated statements of trust.” Huawei, for its part, describes itself as “the most audited company in the world.” The company offers to put its equipment through any inspection in testing centers jointly run with governments. Last month, they put one such center into operation in Bonn in cooperation with the BSI. Schönbohm was enthusiastic: “We welcome the opening of this laboratory, which enables a further and deeper technical exchange between Huawei and the BSI.”

His ebullience is misguided. The Bonn center follows the British model, where the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre has existed since 2010 controlled by the British intelligence service GCHQ, among others. Yet just this year, the British inspection report could give “only limited assurance” that Huawei products do not pose any risks to national security. This prompted the government to warn network operators that current rules could be changed and that certain suppliers (i.e., Huawei) could be excluded. Speaking about building Britain’s 5G network, just this week MI6 chief Alex Younger said the UK needs to take decision on “the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies.”

The final British decision is still pending, but the conclusion for Germany should be clear. If the British GCHQ, which is technically far superior to the German BSI, cannot issue a clean bill of health for Huawei, we don’t have to wait for the BSI’s own efforts. In the future, the testing centers will be in an even worse position. Checking for possible hardware backdoors will only be a small part of the job. Virtualization (and related software) will play a central role for 5G. And with weekly software updates, infrastructure operators will have a front door to compromise systems. No testing center would be able to check weekly software updates in advance.

For good reasons, the German intelligence services, unlike the BSI, take a far more critical view of the Huawei risk. They share the Australian intelligence community’s negative assessment, which, according to anonymously sourced reports in November, is based on at least one case of Chinese intelligence agents using Huawei employees to obtain access codes for a foreign network.



Japan’s top three telcos to shun Huawei, ZTE network equipment: Kyodo

December 10, 2018

Japan’s big three telecom operators plan not to use current equipment and upcoming fifth-generation (5G) gear from China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] and ZTE Corp (0763.HK) (000063.SZ), Kyodo News reported on Monday.

The news, for which Kyodo did not cite sources, comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of Chinese tech firms by Washington and some prominent allies over ties to the Chinese government, driven by concerns they could be used by Beijing for spying.

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Last week sources told Reuters that Japan planned to ban government purchases of equipment from Huawei and ZTE to ensure strength in its defenses against intelligence leaks and cyber attacks.

A SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) spokesman said Japan’s third-largest telco was closely watching government policy and is continuing to consider its options. The amount of equipment in use from Chinese makers “is relatively small”, he said.

The country’s top two telecommunications operators, NTT Docomo Inc (9437.T) and KDDI Corp (9433.T), said the firms had not made any decision yet.

Docomo does not use Huawei or ZTE network equipment, but it has partnered with Huawei on 5G trials. KDDI also does not use Huawei equipment in its “core” network, a spokeswoman said, adding it does not use any ZTE network equipment.

Huawei did not respond to Reuters request for comment, while ZTE declined to comment.

Huawei has already been locked out of the U.S. market, and Australia and New Zealand have blocked it from building 5G networks amid concerns of its possible links with China’s government. Huawei has said Beijing has no influence over it.

Japan’s decision to keep it out would be another setback for Huawei, whose chief financial officer was recently arrested by Canadian officials for extradition to the United States.

World financial markets have been roiled since news of the arrest, on worries it could reignite a Sino-U.S. trade row that was only just showing signs of easing.

Shares of SoftBank, which has the deepest relationship with Huawei among the big Japanese telcos, fell the most among the three top Japanese telcos on Monday, ending down 3.5 percent.

Industry sources said SoftBank would find it difficult to replace pre-existing Huawei network equipment that is designed for the company and not easily interchangable.

Docomo and KDDI shares fell around 1 percent, in a wider market .N225 that closed down 2 percent.

Earlier, SoftBank’s Japanese telecoms unit priced its IPO at an indicated 1,500 yen ($13.31) per share and said it will sell an extra 160 million shares to meet solid demand, raising about $23.5 billion in Japan’s biggest-ever IPO.

Reporting by Sam Nussey, Makiko Yamazaki and Yoshiyasu Shida; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Himani Sarkar


Our phones are being targeted by spyware

December 10, 2018

“IT’S not paranoia if they really are out to get you.” For Ahmed Mansour, a human rights activist hailing from the UAE, those are words to live by; after all, speaking out on inconvenient issues in a country which frowns upon such expression, is a perilous vocation at best and a deadly one at worst.

So when Mansour receives a message on his phone with an attached link, he doesn’t automatically click on it even if it promises him the greatest cat videos of all time.

That approach served him well when he received several such messages from an unknown source. Instead of clicking, he sent the messages to cybersecurity firm Citizen’s Lab which sent them forward to another cybersecurity firm called Lookout for investigation.

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What they found was a form of spyware they had not yet seen, despite the fact that their entire job is to root out and counter such malicious tools. In the words of Lookout, it carries out “the most sophisticated attack they’d ever seen”. How sophisticated? For one thing, this spyware was designed for phones using Apple’s iOs software, which was previously considered incredibly secure (it is also now available for Android).

Once installed, the spyware ensures total surveillance by installing modules that allow the end user to listen to all calls, take screenshots, read all messages and emails, scan contact lists, photo galleries and browser histories. It can even turn on your phone’s microphone at will, essentially turning your phone into a surveillance device.

If you think that your messages are safe because you use encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Signal then consider that Pegasus is capable of logging keystrokes, and thus can read what you’re typing before it is encrypted. And the best part is that it leaves no trace of its existence; even the most skilled cybersecurity experts won’t be able to locate it unless they know exactly what they are looking for. And last but not least, Pegasus can self-destruct; deleting itself without a trace if there is no communication with its command-and-control server for 60 days.

Developed by the Israeli company NSO technologies, Pegasus is a commercial product available for sale to interested bidders, and there is no shortage of those. An investigation by Citizen’s Lab revealed that Pegasus has been detected in at least 45 countries, many of which are notorious for human rights abuses and the suppression of even the most innocuous acts of dissent.

While the Mansour case took place in 2016, Pegasus is back in the news thanks to a lawsuit filed against NSO by Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz who claims that it was this software, obtained by the Saudis and surreptitiously installed on Jamal Khashoggi’s phone that allowed the Saudi government to monitor his communications.

Three other lawsuits against NSO have been filed, one by a Qatari citizen, another by a group of Mexican activists and journalists and the third by Amnesty International. All of the complainants claim that they have been targeted by this spyware. For its part, NSO claims that it only sells Pegasus — which is classified as a weapon by Israel and requires governmental approval prior to sale — under the strict condition that it be used to fight ‘crime and terror’. However, leaked emails submitted along with the lawsuits tell a different story: when UAE officials were offered an expensive upgrade to the spyware, they demanded proof of performance by asking NSO to obtain phone calls made by Abdulaziz Alkhamis the editor of a London-based Arab newspaper. Three days later NSO sent them an email containing those recordings.

Why phones are being targeted for spyware is of course obvious: these little devices know more about us than our family and friends do, and if Big Brother gets into these then well, our lives are literally in their hands.

Sometimes it’s not even necessary to get into the phones, as the apps we like to use are sufficient to glean information from. Take the fitness app Strava which inadvertently gave away the locations of US military bases in Afghanistan and even — thanks to the military personnel using it — allowed other users to actually track movements around the base. While the rest of the world was hunting virtual creatures on Pokemon Go! several militaries around the world banned its use by active personnel for the same reason.

But now we have smart TVs, refrigerators and (believe it or not) salt shakers. All these are part of what we like to call ‘the internet of things’, and each one of them is a potential surveillance device. Smart water meters may be efficient for the user, but they also can let hackers know exactly when you flush your toilet. As for those voice assistants we love to use, how can Alexa hear you say ‘hello’ if it’s not always listening? And how hard would it be then for others to listen in? At which point does our convenience end up compromising us?

The writer is a journalist.

Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

See also:

Chinese Android Phone Shipped with Spyware

Russian bots fomenting unrest in France? Yellow Vest protests fueled by Russia, Facebook

December 9, 2018

Image result for yellow vest protests, paris, photos

The outbreaks of violence were on a smaller scale on Saturday than the destruction and looting of a week earlier, when some 200 cars were torched in the worst rioting in Paris in decades.

The government had vowed “zero tolerance” for anarchist, far-right or other trouble-makers seeking to wreak further havoc at protests that have sparked the deepest crisis of Macron’s presidency.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe congratulated police for the operation, and promised Macron would address the protesters’ concerns.

“The dialogue has begun and it must continue,” Philippe said. “The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue.”

Authorities also launched an investigation into social media activity from accounts allegedly drumming up support for the protests, sources told AFP.

According to the UK’s Times newspaper, hundreds of online accounts linked to Russia were used to stoke the demonstrations.

Citing analysis by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company, the Times said the accounts spread disinformation and used pictures of injured protesters from other events to enhance a narrative of brutality by French authorities.

Read the rest:


EU Worried About Huawei Sending Data Back To China

December 7, 2018
The EU’s technology commissioner has sounded the alarm over Huawei’s possible links to security services in China. The tech giant immediately expressed its disappointment over the allegations.


The European Union should be worried about technology giant Huawei cooperating with Chinese intelligence services to compromise the bloc’s security and industry, the EU’s technology commissioner advised on Friday.


Andrus Ansip warned Chinese tech companies could be cooperating with the state’s intelligence agencies or adding “back doors” to their systems to allow spies access to EU secrets.

“Do we have to be worried about Huawei or other Chinese companies? Yes I think we have to be worried,” he told a news conference in Brussels.

Ansip added Huawei-designed chips could be used by Chinese security services “to get our secrets.”

His remarks come 6 days after Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on suspicion of involvement in the evasion of sanctions.

The Chinese tech giant immediately rejected “any allegation” that it might pose a security threat.

“Huawei has never been asked by any government to build any backdoors or interrupt any networks, and we would never tolerate such behavior by any of our staff,” Huawei said in a statement.

EU Technology Commissioner Andrus Ansip speaks at an event in Hamburg, Germany

EU Technology Commissioner Andrus Ansip speaks at an event in Hamburg, Germany



EU commissioner: ‘We have to be worried’ about Huawei

Andrus Ansip talks tough on Chinese telecom vendors.

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said on Friday that Europe should be worried about Chinese telecom vendors like Huawei due to growing concerns about cybersecurity risks.

“I think we have to be worried about these companies,” Ansip, who deals with digital issues at the Commission, said of Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies at a news conference, in unusually strong terms for a top EU official.

“They have to cooperate with their intelligence services. This is about mandatory backdoors. I was always against having those mandatory backdoors,” he said, adding: “[It is] about chips they can put somewhere to get our secrets.”

The Chinese company is under renewed scrutiny after its Chief Financial Officer Sabrina Meng was arrested in Canada Saturday.

“We don’t know exactly what the reason was to arrest somebody in Canada,” Ansip said, but added:” It’s not a good sign when companies have to open their systems for some kind of secret services.”

“As normal ordinary people, of course we have to be afraid,” he said.

European Commission officials think Huawei’s dominance of the telecom vendor space is threatening Europe’s strategic autonomy and long-term security, according to an internal document reported earlier by POLITICO.

“We categorically reject we are a threat to national security,” a spokesperson for Huawei said. “Can anyone in the U.S., in Canada, in Belgium or anywhere else show us any proof [of backdoors]?”

“Huawei has never been asked and would never provide … espionage to any government,” the spokesperson said.

“Let’s treat cybersecurity as a technical issue so we can work together to secure networks. Not politicize it,” the spokesperson added. “We don’t want to be singled out because we’re Chinese.”

Germany Resists Pressure to Abandon Huawei

December 7, 2018

German officials were reportedly pushing earlier this year for their government to follow other countries’ lead and slap a ban on Chinese IT firm Huawei. But Berlin doesn’t seem inclined to bow to US pressure.

Logo von Huawei (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

Chinese multinational tech giant Huawei Technologies opened a new information security lab in the German city of Bonn last month. Some observers see the move as designed to butter up German regulators ahead of the country’s 5G mobile spectrum auction.

The German network regulator (BNetzA) is finalizing the terms for the 5G licensing round it plans to hold in the first quarter of 2019.

The total cost of building Germany’s 5G networks could be €80 billion ($91 billion) and this means high stakes for Huawei and its rivals Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE and Samsung.

Not too bothered

Germany doesn’t have its own indigenous telecoms hardware industry to speak of and maintains close trade and investment ties with Beijing.

The German interior ministry has said there is no legal basis to exclude foreign equipment providers from the country’s 5G system and no such measure is planned.

Read more: China’s Huawei finance chief arrested in Canada, faces extradition to US

There is no formal bilateral agreement on preventing commercial cyber espionage between Germany and China, but the number of known China-originated commercial cyber espionage attacks on German companies has dropped in the past two years, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

This is corroborated by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. The fall has been linked to an increase in Chinese foreign direct investment in high-tech and advanced manufacturing industries in 2016.

Former BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen has linked the decline to an increase in the use of legal tools for obtaining the same information, such as corporate takeovers.

“Industrial espionage is no longer necessary if one can simply take advantage of liberal economic regulations to buy companies and then disembowel them or cannibalize them to gain access to their know-how,” Maassen said.

But things may be changing. “The German public discourse around China has changed in the last year or so, not primarily rushed by the US,” cyber security specialist Raffaello Pantucci told DW. “The Germans have seen several cases where the Chinese have crossed a line.”

Read more: Exit the Dragon? Chinese investment in Germany

Pantucci believes the Chinese will now have difficulty winning the 2019 5G auction. “This puts the cat among the pigeons. No country can avoid this dilemma and I think it’s now very unlikely a Chinese firm will win.”

Huawei Australien (Imago/ZumaPress//Imago/M. Schwarz)Australia has cited national security risks with regard to Huawei

Issues in the UK, Australia and New Zealand

Britain’s BT Group said this week it will remove Huawei Technologies’ equipment from its core 4G network within two years and has also excluded Huawei from bidding for contracts to supply equipment for use in its core 5G network.

However, a ban remains unlikely in the UK, due to the advanced stage of Huawei’s involvement in 5G development in the country.

New Zealand has also rejected Huawei’s first 5G bid, citing national security risks while earlier this year, Australia banned Huawei from supplying 5G equipment for the same reason.

US pressure

The US is putting increased pressure on its political allies, including Germany, to exclude Huawei from their next-generation mobile networks. Washington has long said Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese hardware maker, are potential menaces to security and privacy.

US authorities have pointed to China’s national intelligence law, which they say could force Chinese companies to facilitate spying efforts in other countries. US authorities cited the issue when they blocked Broadcom’s hostile takeover of Qualcomm earlier this year.

In 2013, the US Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimated that the theft of Intellectual Property was $300 billion (€257 billion) annually, with 50 to 80 percent of the thefts attributed to China.

But why is it all such a big deal?

“Many states are concerned about using Chinese telecommunications and technology companies in critical infrastructure companies for a range of reasons,” Daniella Cave, a specialist on cyber security at ASPI, told DW.

Firstly, she says, the Chinese state has a history of aggressive and wide-ranging espionage and intellectual property theft.

Secondly, the national intelligence law they introduced in 2017 compels organizations and individuals to participate in intelligence activities and to keep secret the intelligence activities they are aware of.

Thirdly, there have been allegations that Chinese companies have been complicit, knowingly or unknowingly, in the theft of secrets and valuable government data, Cave says.

A double-edged sword

“I think the Chinese state’s introduction of the national intelligence law is going to place suspicion on the international activities of most of China’s large companies going forward,” Cave says.

“But it’s a double-edged sword for China, as the Chinese Communist Party has made it virtually impossible for Chinese companies to expand without attracting understandable and legitimate suspicion,” she adds.

Cave believes most developed states will be looking at ways in which they can move away from the use of Chinese products in their critical infrastructure.

“A lot of companies have already, and will continue, to look at ways in which they can minimize the risks to their supply chain by closely scrutinizing the hardware and software in their systems.”

Why Huawei arrest deepens conflict between US and China

December 7, 2018

The arrest of a prominent Chinese telecommunications executive has driven home why it will be so hard for the Trump administration to resolve its deepening conflict with China.

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, has heightened skepticism over the trade truce that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Stock markets tumbled Thursday on fears that the 90-day cease-fire won’t last, but regained their equilibrium in Europe and Asia on Friday.

A bail hearing for Meng, who faces possible extradition to the United States after her arrest in Vancouver, Canada, last weekend, was set for later Friday.

Huawei has been a subject of U.S. national security concerns for years and Meng’s case echoes well beyond tariffs or market access. Washington and Beijing are locked in a clash between the world’s two largest economies for economic and political dominance for decades to come.

“It’s a much broader issue than just a trade dispute,” said Amanda DeBusk, chair of the international trade practice at Dechert LLP. “It pulls in: Who is going to be the world leader essentially.”

Meng was detained on the same day that Trump and Xi met at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina and agreed to a cease-fire in their trade war. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, reported she is suspected of trying to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Huawei is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies and long has been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services. A U.S. National Security Agency cybersecurity adviser, Rob Joyce, last month accused Beijing of violating a 2015 agreement with the U.S. to halt electronic theft of intellectual property.

Other nations are increasingly being forced to choose between Chinese and U.S. suppliers for next-generation “5G” wireless technology. U.S. critics are lobbying other countries not to buy the equipment from Huawei, arguing that the company may be working stealthily for Beijing’s spymasters.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party — and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion’ is no exception,” Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote in October to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They urged him to keep Huawei off Canada’s next-generation network.

Still, a senior Japanese official cast doubt Friday over reports that his country was considering blocking Huawei and its biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., from government procurement contracts. He said there had been no decision. Australia, New Zealand and Britain are among the countries that have moved to limit the Chinese companies’ involvement in their next-generation telecoms networks.

In a sign Meng’s case might not derail the Trump-Xi truce, Beijing protested Meng’s arrest but said talks with the Trump administration would go ahead. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said China is confident it can reach a deal during the 90 days that Trump agreed to suspend a scheduled increase in U.S. import taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese products.

Some analysts say China has deployed predatory tactics in its drive to overtake America’s dominance in technology and global economic leadership, such as forcing American and other foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market and engaging in cyber-theft.

Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidizing Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors.

Priscilla Moriuchi, a former East Asia specialist at National Security Agency now with the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said both ZTE and Huawei are wedded to China’s military and political leadership.

“The threat from these companies lies in their access to critical internet backbone infrastructure,” she said.

The Trump administration has tightened regulations on high-tech exports to China and made it harder for Chinese firms to invest in U.S. companies or to buy American technology in cutting-edge areas like robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Earlier this year, the United States nearly drove Huawei’s biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., out of business for selling equipment to North Korea and Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. But Trump issued a reprieve, perhaps partly because U.S. tech companies, major suppliers to ZTE, would also have been scorched. ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, change its board and management and to let American regulators monitor its operations.

The U.S. and Chinese tech industries depend on each other so much for components that “it is very hard to decouple the two without punishing U.S. companies, without shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Adam Segal, cyberspace analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Dean Garfield, president of the U.S. Information Technology Industry Council trade group, said innovation by U.S. companies often depends utterly on product development and testing by Chinese partners and component suppliers.

Still, the pushback against Huawei and ZTE is limiting their reach into the world’s richest markets. Nearly a year ago, AT&T pulled out of a deal to sell Huawei smartphones. Barred from use by U.S. government agencies and contractors, they’re mostly locked out of the American market.

Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, doubts that China will change its tech policies since it needs innovative technologies to keep its economy growing as its labor force ages and it confronts a huge stockpile of debt.

“We’re not going to deal that away in 90 days,” he said. “I don’t see a way out of this.”

Likewise, Rod Hunter, an international economic official in President George W. Bush’s White House and a partner at law firm Baker McKenzie, said, “I’m skeptical that the Chinese are going to want to say ‘uncle.’” U.S. and Chinese officials are “trying to tackle a problem that is going to take years, maybe a decade, to resolve.”


Bajak reported from Boston. AP staff writers Rob Gillies in Toronto, Joe McDonald in Beijing and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.