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Huawei in Spying Flap

Light Reading
Supercomm News Analysis
Light Reading
6/24/2004
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A major equipment vendor is accusing a Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. employee of corporate espionage following an incident that occurred after the Supercomm exhibit floor closed on Wednesday, Light Reading has learned.

Sources close to the situation say the Huawei worker was caught at a competitor's booth where he was examining circuit boards taken from the vendor's displayed gear and taking photographs of the company's products.

Supercomm security was called and the vendor confiscated the Huawei worker's camera Memory Sticks and took photocopies of his passport, visa, and several pages of notes. On the worker's exhibitor badge, the company's name was listed as "Weihua," which a source interpreted as an attempt to obscure his employer. Supercomm management stripped the worker of his credentials and told him to leave the area.

The employee -- a technical engineer named Yi Bin Zhu -- says the incident is a misunderstanding. Zhu spoke to Light Reading through an interpreter on Thursday at Huawei's Supercomm meeting room. He says this is his first time traveling outside of China and he was not aware that photography was prohibited on the Supercomm show floor.

Zhu says the incorrectly listed name on his exhibitor badge was also a misunderstanding. He says the Chinese custom of listing surnames first caused him to fill out his show paperwork incorrectly, resulting in the mangled name.

But there was plenty more to explain. Zhu's notes contained two pages of proprietary diagrams of an AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) central office, a source familiar with the documents says. Also in his possession was a list of several vendors he had either visited or was about to visit, the source says.

The vendors on Zhu's list included Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA), "Nothtel," Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (FNC), White Rock Networks Inc., and Turin Networks Inc. Two specific products were singled-out in the list: FNC's Flashwave 4300 and Nortel's Optical Multiservice Edge 6500.

The contents of Zhu's Memory Sticks included photographs of the FNC 4300, with its casing removed, as well as some video clips of various company Supercomm presentations that were taken from what one source calls "surreptitious angles."

Zhu says his notes were just a guide to the vendors he was interested in. He denied pulling out any vendor's circuit boards to have a closer look.

David Swanston, Supercomm's director of communications, says that with more and more sophisticated devices, unauthorized photography is difficult to stop. "You can't prevent all of it," he says. "But we will prevent all we can."

At least two vendors on Zhu's list, upon being contacted by Light Reading on Thursday, say they're looking into what legal options are available.

In the past, Huawei has been accused of stealing intellectual property from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Huawei's own investigation found that rogue developers were at fault, concluding that the incident was isolated (see Cisco & Huawei Extend Stay). — Phil Harvey, News Editor, and Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading; and Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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digerato
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digerato,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:31:01 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
Huawei used to buy at least one of a competitor's product before duplicating it, but it seems that they now want to avoid even that expense.

Or perhaps this was just another "rogue employee".

Digerato
vapa
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vapa,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:31:00 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
This is definitely new low for Huawei. And to let these guy compete internationally with other companies who spend tons of money on R&D (in-house or through acquisitions)..... Tsk, tsk, tsk..... When will China learn to play fair? Before it was designer knockoffs, now world-class telecom gear knowoffs. I wonder how much money is being lost to those knockoffs (both in fashion industry and telecom). Isn't there international court system somewhere?

opticalwatcher
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opticalwatcher,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:31:00 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
"He says this is his first time traveling outside of China and he was not aware that photography was prohibited on the Supercomm show floor."

He didn't know he wasn't allowed to sneak around after hours, going to various booths, pulling boards out of chassis (probably without static protection) to take pictures and take notes.



opticalwatcher
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opticalwatcher,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:31:00 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
The spying threat used to be the Russians and Americans trying to discover each other's military secrets. This is a new era where governments are using their spies to help out national industries.

The head of the French equivalent of the CIA was the first to announce this policy about 10 years ago.

Modern day James Bond's are now found at tradeshows! I certainly hope that the Supercomm folks have contacted the FBI.
cyber_techy
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cyber_techy,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:31:00 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
Not sure what would someone accomplish by taking a few pictures. It usually does not tell you anything other than blinking LEDs. Of course I am not sure how advanced these cameras are.



Sources close to the situation say the Huawei worker was caught at a competitor's booth where he was examining circuit boards taken from the vendor's displayed gear and taking photographs of the company's products.

Supercomm security was called and the vendor confiscated the Huawei worker's camera Memory Sticks and took photocopies of his passport, visa, and several pages of notes. On the worker's exhibitor badge, the company's name was listed as "Weihua," what one vendor described as an attempt to obscure his employer. Supercomm management stripped the worker of his credentials and told him to leave the area.

The employee -- a technical engineer named Yibin Zhu -- says the incident is a misunderstanding. Zhu spoke to Light Reading through an interpreter on Thursday at Huawei's Supercomm meeting room. He says this is his first time traveling outside of China and he was not aware that photography was prohibited on the Supercomm show floor.

OptixCal
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OptixCal,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:30:59 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
"The head of the French equivalent of the CIA..." There's a contradiction in terms, isn't it!
digerato
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digerato,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:30:59 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
"Not sure what would someone accomplish by taking a few pictures. It usually does not tell you anything other than blinking LEDs. Of course I am not sure how advanced these cameras are."

Dude, he was pulling cards out of the chassis, removing any covering or mechanical stuff that got in the way, and photographing the circuit boards.

Digerato
Yao
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Yao,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:30:59 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
I think Lightreading should reveal the other party's name too. This way it sounds like a fare news.
Abby
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Abby,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:30:59 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
This is just plain silly. If you consider the fact that Huawei could easily hire someone in the U.S. with the knowledge and skills to match whatever this employee's curiosity was, they have got to be more emabarrassed than anything!
Balet
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Balet,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 1:30:58 AM
re: Huawei in Spying Flap
I really like chinese engineers; however, it is a part of the culture, I guess. Stealing intelectual property is absolutely normal in China.
One of my previous companies was involved in a famous excident. The chineese engineer stole designs and drawings from his large company to join our startup. FBI has been looking for him for last 6 years or so.

Normal component/module companies never send any samples to Huawei, even hermetically packaged.
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