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Security Unease Dogs 21CN

Ray Le Maistre

1:35 PM -- As the economic gloom darkens, so the paranoia grows.

According to this report in The Sunday Times, British intelligence chiefs are worried that network infrastructure sourced from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. for BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s 21CN next-generation network could be used to cripple the U.K.'s communications and utilities.

The concern centers around the theory that Huawei, influenced by its alleged links to the Chinese military, may have modified the communications systems it is supplying to BT in such a way that they could be disabled and bring down BT's network. That, in turn, would bring the U.K. to a virtual halt.

Huawei, if you remember, was awarded deals to supply BT with access and optical infrastructure in the initial 21CN contract awards in 2005. (See BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers.)

BT declined to comment on the report.

This isn't the first time that security questions have been raised about Huawei's involvement in the international telecom sector. For instance, a number of industry watchers have suggested that North American agencies and regulators would block any attempt by Huawei to buy Nortel Networks Ltd. 's optical assets, and such concerns saw the eventual failure of Huawei's efforts to take a stake in 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS). (See Huawei Seen as Likely Nortel Suitor and Huawei & Bain Bail on $2.2B 3Com Deal.)

And, of course, Huawei's employees don't help matters on occasions. (See The Trouble With Huawei....)

I wonder if Chinese intelligence chiefs are questioning the contract award decisions of its national operators, all of which have deployed network hardware and software from Western vendors?

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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12/5/2012 | 4:08:01 PM
re: Security Unease Dogs 21CN

12/5/2012 | 4:08:00 PM
re: Security Unease Dogs 21CN

I can't imagine that this will change anything at BT.

The Huawei threat is being taken very seriously in a lot of US service providers.  But we won't admit it because Huawei has to be there to drive prices down.

I'm not a big fan of their products.  There's not much innovation I can see.  But they are helping to keep the mainstream suppliers honest, so that's got to be good.

What surprises me is why this is only emerging now.  Huawei is putting in a bunch of mobile infrastructure around the world.  I would be a lot more concerned about their ability to tap into mobile phone calls than intercepting traffic on an optical fiber.

Also, I wonder if western intelligence agencies are worried because this is exactly what they have done in the past?  I remember whispered conversations about Lucent Class 5 and Class 4 switches that were apparently fitted with back doors.


Mostly Harmless
Mostly Harmless
12/5/2012 | 4:08:00 PM
re: Security Unease Dogs 21CN

 "wonder if Chinese intelligence chiefs are questioning the contract award decisions of its national operators, all of which have deployed network hardware and software from Western vendors?"

Why would they worry?  Isn't most of that "western" gear made in China these days?  If they block deals to western manufacturers they'll just be putting their own people out of work.

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