Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Does Huawei's equipment have embedded spyware?

There is some apprehension by the Indian government that equipments from the Chinese Telecom equipment maker, Huwei, may be pre-installed with spyware which could be used for accessing information and controlling the equipment remotely.

Chinese have been known to use non-state actors for hacking into R&D resources of other countries and companies. The only sure way of finding out about the equipment from Huawei is to ask for the complete design reference of the equipment and investigate them, or force the company to sell its equipments through a licensing model, in which case, the license for the technology involved in the equipment have to be transferred to local companies in India.

The third option of reverse engineering would be very difficult because of the complex technology involved in the heart of digital equipments - the IC chips.

Whichever way possible, it is important to be sure about the equipments, especially because they come from a state which seems to have an (unofficial) policy of web based attacks on other countries.

Update: 16-05-10

However, is the government's move to ban Chinese telecom equipments the right solution? Such a move would obviously have repercussions on diplomatic ties between the two countries. Also, the government has not provided any proof to suggest that Chinese telecom equipments indeed have malware embedded in them. 

Even if the government bans future supply of equipment from Chinese manufacturers, what about the equipment that is already installed by the telecom operators?  Is the government going to ban use of existing equipments and get them uninstalled? Who will bear the loss because of this ban? Government must have the evidence before banning Chinese equipment manufacturers. 

On a different note, the Windows OS has been proven to be an easily hackable software that can be controlled remotely through spyware/malware. In fact, the vulnerabilities of the Windows OS and its Internet Explorer browser has done much harm to the Indian government and other governments and companies of the world. So, will the government ban Windows from the Indian market? Perhaps, in an uncanny way, isn't the government  barking up the wrong tree?   

Clearly, in the absence of any evidence, the government is being alarmist and unfair to the Chinese telecom equipment manufacturers. It should negotiate with the companies to be be certain that the equipments do not have any malware, at the same time, it should refrain from harsh measures like imposing blanket bans.  

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