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China Telco Replaces Cisco Devices Over Security Concerns 180

Posted by timothy
from the tit-for-tat-for-tit-etc dept.
hackingbear writes "China Unicom, the country's second largest telecom operator, has replaced Cisco Systems routers in one of the country's most important backbone networks, citing security reasons [due to bugs and vulnerability.) The move came after a congressional report branded Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. security threats in the United States, citing bugs and vulnerability (rather than actual evidence of spying.) Surprising to us, up to now, Cisco occupies a large market share in China. It accounts for over a 70 percent share of China Telecom's 163 backbone network and over an 80 percent share of China Unicom's 169 backbone network. Let's wait to see who's the winner in this trade war disguised as national security."
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China Telco Replaces Cisco Devices Over Security Concerns

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  • Seems smart to me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Friday October 26, 2012 @08:11PM (#41785067) Homepage

    Why should the Chinese trust American equipment and vice versa. It's not like these are objects that get sent to another country never to be see again, they get put on networks, many available publicly.

    • They certainly don't trust each other because the world is fucked up. And there's a fine line between "Security concerns" and plain old fashioned paranoia.

    • by Cramer (69040)

      Maybe because they're the ones *actually* building them??? A good bit of Cisco's hardware is built in China. (amung other places.)

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Except this has nothing to do with trust and security and everything to do with money.
    • Why should the Chinese trust Chinese equipment, it's all copies of western stuff anyway!

      • by GrpA (691294)

        Why should the US trust US-designed equipment?. It's all manufactured in China anyway.

        GrpA

    • by TheLink (130905)

      They shouldn't. The USA actually has a track record of putting backdoors into stuff. e.g. Lotus Notes. http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/2/2898/1.html [heise.de]

      By the way if you use Windows, as long as Microsoft signs something, your computer will trust it. And if you also use IE, you can delete all the CAs in your browser except the microsoft one, once you go to an https website, the required CA certs will be readded automagically as long as they have been signed by the Microsoft one (try it yourself on a test machine

    • Cisco has had a lot of known vulnerabilities over the last few years, so I'd be wary of installing them too. The Chinese intelligence agencies almost certainly examine them for additional ones, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if this is the result of Cisco not fixing a load of holes that the Chinese found (and maybe didn't report), rather than any issue about trusting a US company.
    • by unixisc (2429386)
      Looks like China can buy from Huawei what they stop buying from Cisco, while in the rest of the world that has barred Huawei from selling there, Cisco can sell there to compensate for lost sales to China
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday October 26, 2012 @08:14PM (#41785089)

    It's not a trade war disguised as national security, it's national security disguised as a trade war. There's been no evidence presented of any backdoors. I'm quite certain that by now, many intelligence organizations have taken the chips apart and scanned them down and if they'd found anything there would have been a reaction. But there hasn't been -- it's just been hints, allegations, and rumor. It's disinformation, because there's no truth to go on, just more communist red-baiting. Not to say China doesn't have the resources, and doesn't have a long and inglorious history of electronic espionage... but so does France and nobody says a peep about them.

    The United States isn't worried about China because it poses a military threat, or a "cyber" threat, or a terrorist threat... they're scared shitless because this country has clubbed and beaten its rivals over the head with economic policies and rules. China has us by the balls on rare earth metals, and most of our consumer electronics are made in Asia. If they decide to play economic hardball, we're going to lose. For a country that's grown complacent being able to pick up a phone and make every other country on the planet bend over and drop their pants to please the all-mighty american dollar... we're fucking terrified that there's a couple billion people about to industrialize and their economy is a jaugernaut. It won't be long before our military is the only thing remarkable about our country -- and it won't be sustainable without a solid economy to back it.

    In 20 years, we're going to be facing the same situation the Soviet Union did: They died because they tried to maintain their military at the expense of their economy. This is a game we're going to lose, badly. That's why every trade sanction, disinformation campaign, and high profile story about places like FoxConn are desperately sought after by our military and economic leaders... if China manages to develop its economy much more, we're screwed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233)
      You were "screwed" in 2008 or probably even before. Now it's all about waking up and noticing that everything changed while Bush was asleep.
      • by rubycodez (864176)

        nonsense, the problems we had in 2008 were decades in the making.

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by dbIII (701233)
          Oh sorry, I'm just the engineer, decades in the making, that knows nothing about engineering according to ruby coding boy, and not an economist, presumably like ruby coding boy who can't even understand that I did not say the problems were not "decades in the making" and even had the words "probably even before" above.
          Please understand what you read before you dismiss it as "nonsense" and don't just say I'm wrong because you've seen my handle before.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Everyone I know who does business in France says you can't trust the French government at all. They will take every opportunity to steal secrets to give to french companies. Its quite a well known thing. Just that its all old news so it doesn't make headlines.

      • by Fishchip (1203964)
        China doing this shouldn't come as a stunning surprise either.
      • ... and this is the way we do it when we are in France ...

        We leave "specially prepared documents" in our hotel rooms every time we went out for dinner, or meeting, or whatever.

        Those "specially prepared documents" do that look very genuine, with all kinds of juicy "insider secrets", but in fact, we fill them with half-truths, and spice it up with stuffs that we know would create havocs for those who try duplicating the result.

        Why we do so?

        Because, the French intelligent agency are in every single hotel in Fr

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2012 @08:45PM (#41785351)

      Posting as AC, because this is one of my areas of research. And it is impossible to "tear down the chips" like you think it is. If you only alter the chips in 1 out of 400 routers... thats enough to provide a lot of access in and of itself. And this would be statistically very hard to find. (even if you dissolve the upper layers of the IC and then progressively examine the ICs)

      Plus this isn't an issue of just the hardware alone, it has to do with the intractability of hardware AND software combinations. Perhaps the "backdoor"s only "activate" when they receive a certainly formatted UDP packet, etc...

      It isn't easy to find things like this in IC circuits... despite how easy you would think it is...

      This PROBABLY isn't as big an issue as the politicians are hyping it up (on both sides of the isle) BUT... just like how the US has ITAR (International Trafficking of Arms Regulations) about both weapons and "things that can help a foreign military... and POTENTIAL backdoor into a major USA ISP... is s potential security (and national security{in terms of infrastructure}) issue...

      • by petes_PoV (912422)

        ... is s potential security (and national security{in terms of infrastructure}) issue

        Although in reality the weakness is self-inflicted. If a government suspects that there are security holes and flaws in critical network security systems the stupidest, dumbest thing they could possibly do is to place critical national infrastructure on that network,

        In that case, it's no use blaming some "foreign" company. The fault lies squarely at home with whoever made the decision to expose critical systems - and keeping them exposed. Once the security problems have been discovered, it is somewhere be

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Friday October 26, 2012 @08:52PM (#41785399)

      A few things...

      I'm quite certain that by now, many intelligence organizations have taken the chips apart and scanned them down [for backdoors] and if they'd found anything there would have been a reaction.

      You are grossly underestimating the complexity of modern microchips. What you're describing simply isn't feasible for any chip of even modest complexity. To hunt for backdoors, you would really need to look at the HDL files, and even then, it wouldn't be hard to hide something malicious in one of the hundreds of test modes.

      China has us by the balls on rare earth metals, and most of our consumer electronics are made in Asia. If they decide to play economic hardball, we're going to lose.

      You're also overestimating China's position. There are plenty of rare earth metals outside of China. It's actually to China's detriment that they're the chief supplier right now. As the supply of easily accessible minerals goes down, the value will go up -- the countries that wait the longest before ramping production will benefit the most. As for consumer electronics, what are they going to do? Stop making iPhones? If anything, that could be a short term boon to our economy, as we would suddenly have a motive to build a bunch of new factories and hire a bunch of workers. The increased cost of electronics would bug people for a while, but eventually they'd get used to it, and maybe even stop throwing away perfectly good phones every couple years. Meanwhile, what happens to China's economy when they cut out their largest trade partner?

      Now, I agree that we spend waaay too much on our military, and but your attitude is way too negative. I get that there's a lot of anti-American propaganda on the internet, and it's easy to be taken in by it, but it's mostly baseless. China will develop for a while longer, their people will demand a fair wage, their quality of life will increase, and things will even back out. The Chinese people aren't a bunch of worker ants, emotionlessly toiling away for the good of the hive. The media likes to present them that way, just as they used to do with Japan, because it's scary, and scared people consume more news.

      People often predict end times in their life time. I suspect it's because life can be dull and a part of them wants to live in "interesting times". The truth is much more banal. England's a perfect example of a "fallen" superpower, and they seem to be doing quite alright.

      • You are grossly underestimating the complexity of modern microchips. What you're describing simply isn't feasible for any chip of even modest complexity. To hunt for backdoors, you would really need to look at the HDL files, and even then, it wouldn't be hard to hide something malicious in one of the hundreds of test modes.

        No, I think you are grossly underestimating the resources of the global intelligence community.

        You're also overestimating China's position. There are plenty of rare earth metals outside of China. It's actually to China's detriment that they're the chief supplier right now.

        Really? Walk over to any electronics item in your house and flip it over. Made in ______ [fill in the blank]. And please explain to me how being the chief supplier of a thing is a problem for said supplier... because OPEC is the chief supplier of oil and nobody considers them disadvantaged.

        Now, I agree that we spend waaay too much on our military, and but your attitude is way too negative. I get that there's a lot of anti-American propaganda on the internet, and it's easy to be taken in by it, but it's mostly baseless.

        Why do people hate us Americans? New survey reveals it's because we're bombing them! Apparently, 100% of the respondents state

        • by artor3 (1344997) on Friday October 26, 2012 @10:35PM (#41786147)

          1. You're just going to have to trust me on this: it is not possible to find backdoors in microchips by "tearing them down". The CIA or NSA or whoever wouldn't even both to try. Instead, they would bribe some Chinese worker to tell them, or they would drop a flash drive with a virus in the parking lot and gain access to the company's emails, or something like that.

          2. If we couldn't get electronics from China, we'd get them from Korea or Japan or Taiwan or Thailand or wherever. Or make them here, thanks to advances in automation. The reduction in supply would raise prices for a while, but we could adjust. Your OPEC analogy doesn't work because oil is a resource that is specific to certain areas. Labor is not.

          3. Absolutely agree on why people hate the US, and I agree that our foreign policy shouldn't involve playing world cop (especially since we seem to be a dirty cop). But the fact that people's reasons for anger towards the US are valid does not mean that their predictions of America's fall will come true.

          4. "The Chinese are worker ants." Now come on, that's just offensive. They're humans, just like everywhere else. People died building the Great Wall, they also died building the transcontinental railroad in the US. The US developed to the point that people weren't willing to put up with that anymore, and China will too.

          5. "Britain's navy was once to be feared, ... [now] they're a mere shadow of what they once were". Wait, weren't you complaining about America's imperialism a couple paragraphs ago? What Britain "once was", was a tyrannical empire that killed countless people and destroyed nations all over the world to enrich themselves. Now they're a much calmer nation that provides good quality of life for their people, and doesn't go around hurting others. Why, exactly, would it be bad for America to follow in their footsteps?

          • by Anonymous Coward

            While I agree calling Brtian calm is a bit misleading. It's just not capable of what it once was. The abuse isn't gone.

            Britan is hardly innocent. They do hurt people. Those people are in prisons. They can't vote. They don't get a say. They can't effect bad laws for which they were imprisoned (or may have been). Britan also has rejected the human rights the EU is trying to impose. They don't want to let the little people have a voice.

            They participated like many other allies of the United States in recent 'wa

        • by m.ducharme (1082683) on Friday October 26, 2012 @11:22PM (#41786419)

          Why do people hate us Americans? New survey reveals it's because we're bombing them! Apparently, 100% of the respondents stated they didn't like getting blown up.

          That's a great .sig, right there.

        • by scubamage (727538)
          I'll be worried about China when they have infrastructure to provide basic plumbing and waste removal to their entire country. Until they have the needs of their own people met, they simply cannot function as a superpower.
        • by DarkOx (621550)

          I have an ex-pat friend who lives in China, and in fact works for China Telecom. They're not emotionless, but they are worker ants. Look up how many people have died during the construction of, er... any major public works project. Ever. Even the Great Wall of China has bodies buried in it. No, really... sometimes people fell in, and they just poured clay in over them and kept going.

          I agree with most of your post but the quote about is a pretty tough stretch. The regime and culture that build the 'Wall' are dust. It has little resemblance with the present. That and its not really uniquely Chinese, behavior. The same is true of the Hover Damn for example and that is much more closely connected with our present.

          One thing that gets over looked often about China (especially by China itself as a matter of policy) is they are not and old nation. Even much of their culture was radically

      • by m00sh (2538182)

        You're also overestimating China's position. There are plenty of rare earth metals outside of China. It's actually to China's detriment that they're the chief supplier right now. As the supply of easily accessible minerals goes down, the value will go up -- the countries that wait the longest before ramping production will benefit the most. As for consumer electronics, what are they going to do? Stop making iPhones? If anything, that could be a short term boon to our economy, as we would suddenly have a mo

      • The increased cost of electronics would bug people for a while, but eventually they'd get used to it, and maybe even stop throwing away perfectly good phones every couple years.

        amen!

        I normally quote in italic but yours was worth bolding.

        bugs me no end that people think they have every right to throw things away that are perfectly good and work just fine.

        I 'still' use the nexus one. its buggy, google won't fix some showstopper bugs and I have not upgraded to CM or anything (its on my todo list) but I won't

    • LOL. If China plays economic hardball, hundreds of millions lose their jobs overnight and then it's revolution time. If China gets uppity, close off the Strait of Malacca and no more petroleum for them. The problem is that you are fundamentally looking at it from the American point of view, while doomsaying.

      Putting backdoors into critical electronic infrastructure is a no-brainer as far as it goes. China would be neglectful if it didn't do that. Now, to get the right idea about Huawei: imagine if the

    • by clesters (793568)
      Trade war, or war within the bureaucracy of the US Govt itself? Remember that Cybersecurity Executive Order [cnet.com]? Wonder who will be put in charge?

      Reminds me of a little story about a power outage [wired.com], maybe [gizmodo.com].

      We can't tell you what we know, but trust us to be in charge...
    • The US because of its electoral Olympics is in better shape to deal with any social disorder. It's entertainment good enough to divert the peoples attention from the system's real problems. No need for the large-scale supression of protests.

      Even if it has the trade surplus, China cannot politically afford an Iraq or even Afghanistan-scale war at the moment without triggering social unrest that dwarfs the Cultural Revolution. The gap between richest and poorest there is larger than it's ever been in the US o

      • Doubt there would be a new Mao. That populist card was played once already, and the nation is far from unified in terms of ideology. If anything, the nation would fracture into separate states if not entire individual sovereign nations. Because of its vast geographical size, population, and diverse culture, China as we know it today would best be served under a democratic/republic system much like we have in the USA in which you have local, state, and federal laws with corresponding elected officials. The q

    • but so does France and nobody says a peep about them.

      Why is it that the French always get not blamed by Americans? That's so unfair. Did you know that the Germans never get not blamed about their industrial spying? It's very frustrating, as Germany is quite good at it. But no, it's like you mustn't mention the spying. You know, Germans are proud people too, and they should get their turn not being blamed every once in a while.

      Now the British, they're amateurs in industrial spying. Refusing to not blame

      • by scubamage (727538)

        It's very frustrating, as Germany is quite good at it. But no, it's like you mustn't mention the spying. You know, Germans are proud people too, and they should get their turn not being blamed every once in a while.

        Germans are also very good at starting world wars.

        • by bursch-X (458146)
          Really? Last time I checked the first country to cry and declare war in WWI was Austria. WWII well, we fucked up big time the, but looking a bit closer you'll find that Hitler was Austrian, too. So essentially *Austrians* are very good at starting World Wars
          • by scubamage (727538)
            Hm, that is actually a very, very good point about WWI. Though I'm not sure Austria wouldn't have gone so far without the blanket support of Germany, that's still a far cry from Germany starting the whole thing :)
      • Why is it that the French always get not blamed by Americans? ...

        Perhaps Americans aren't interested in espionage over arts, croissants and making love. For anything else French espionage is irrelevant.

      • by dwye (1127395)

        Why is it that the French always get not blamed by Americans? That's so unfair.

        Also untrue. The thing is that everyone knows that the French always act French, and everybody has decided to just accept it. As long as one DOES accept the French behavior and plan around that, they can be useful quasi-allies. Just don't think of them like they were British, Israeli, or even Germans.

    • by scubamage (727538)

      It's not a trade war disguised as national security, it's national security disguised as a trade war. There's been no evidence presented of any backdoors. I'm quite certain that by now, many intelligence organizations have taken the chips apart and scanned them down and if they'd found anything there would have been a reaction.

      I wish you were right. [information-age.com]

    • by pep70 (2635649)
      You don't have to add any logic for the backdoor. Instead, you just intentionally leave a sutble zero day exploid "bug"unpatched in your chip. It is almost impossible to catch by scanning. You essentially need to have a program that can detect all the security vulnarabilities. If you can create it, I am pretty sure Microsoft are willing to pay you millions for the technology. Even if your scanner can detect it, it is just a "bug" right? And anybody has bugs.
    • by HiThere (15173)

      If I understand correctly, "rare earths" aren't rare at all. It's just that they're hard to refine, because they're chemically quite similar to each other. So "good ores" are rare, because most ores are expensive to refine. But there isn't a real shortage. (OTOH, if we need to turn to low grade ores, expect the price to jump by at least an order of magnitude.)

      Still, my knowledge on this is decades old. So maybe I'm wrong. But I'd need a good reason to change my mind, and an article in the popular pres

      • by dwye (1127395)

        They are also fairly rare in useful concentrations. Just not unique to China (ever notice how many are named after places in Sweden?), Africa, or anywhere else. If the stream of Chinese rare earth minerals decreases to the point that the price really rises, somewhere else will start producing. Much like with oil, where the Organization of Petroleum Exporting States has only 40% of the world market, anymore.

    • by TheSync (5291)

      most of our consumer electronics are made in Asia. If they decide to play economic hardball, we're going to lose

      If the US cuts off trade with China, we may have a tough time getting TV sets (we'd have to get them from South Korea). China will lose tens of millions of jobs.

  • One thing I like about CHina is that they are smart enough to realize that national security IS an issue. They are in a cold war with the west and know that if they can not control an area economically, then they should avoid that same issue.
    • Only they DO control it.

      • Not if we do not bring their equipment into our infrastructure. The west needs to look carefully at what is happening WRT China.
    • No, China is not in a cold war with anyone. They are simply leveraging economic growth through exports and foreign investments. What really troubles China is not the West at all. In fact, it's the entire Pacific region. Specifically India and Russia. Mean while, they feel they need to re-acquire lost territory they've neglected to protect as a result of their civil war and Cultural Revolution. They now see themselves getting back to their rightful place in world influence and play a game of catching up. Thi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cisco is the Microsoft of the networking world - the household name that's failing to let go of the past and embrace the future. Their saving grace is that Juniper doesn't have a Steve Jobs figure. Nevertheless, anyone switching away from Cisco shouldn't be viewed as a political choice, but rather a rational choice.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Surprising to us, up to now, Cisco occupies a large market share in China. It accounts for over a 70 percent share of China Telecom's 163 backbone network and over an 80 percent share of China Unicom's 169 backbone network."

    Not at all... you think they built that snazzy internet firewall and surveillance system with home grown tech? Hell no! They've been buying the best equipment and services from U.S. companies for a long time:

    http://wraltechwire.com/business/tech_wire/opinion/blogpost/1166609/

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Art of War: "To increase Central Family power, take advantage of all situations to increase surveillance." "Any excuse will work, even trade war."

  • by macbeth66 (204889) on Friday October 26, 2012 @09:44PM (#41785843)

    Let's wait to see who's the winner in this trade war disguised as national security."

    A trade with whom? Both companies' equipment is made in China. Cisco just sells their stuff.

    As for paranoia, the US should be paranoid about Cisco stuff be made in China. It certainly gives me the willies. As does the fact that our medicine and vitamins are made over there as well. But that has had a good affect on me, I guess, as I am eating more local grown foods and staying away from processed foods. Except for Heath bars. Can't resist those.

    • Both companies' equipment is made in China. Cisco just sells their stuff.

      Uhm my ASA 5505 says Made In Mexcio.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        assembled in mexico with parts sourced from various asian countries.

      • You've already convinced the southern states we need to bomb Mexico, no need to involve China in all this. Lets pick fights we can win.
    • by m00sh (2538182) on Saturday October 27, 2012 @12:22AM (#41786709)

      As for paranoia, the US should be paranoid about Cisco stuff be made in China. It certainly gives me the willies.

      Don't worry, the generation after you won't share the same sentiment. Each successive generation have seen larger and larger portions of the world as their "empathy circle". People identifying themselves by country is just a few generations old; before that people identified themselves more by the city or province they were from and before that a clan they belonged to. The future generations will see the a Chinese as just another person living their lives and trying to generally make things better. They certainly won't get willies imagining them as enemies fervently trying to take something away from you.

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