WHAT OTHERS SAY: A timely warning on Internet spying

Friday, October 19, 2012 | 4:12 p.m. CDT

A recent report by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee underscores the growing risks that the nation’s communication networks could be compromised.

While the panel’s document cited no direct evidence, it rightly cautioned American companies about equipment supplied by two Chinese companies: Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp. The 52-page report, including allegations of legal violations, was forwarded to the FBI.

The risk is that surveillance capabilities could be built into the Internet’s switches and routers or the nation’s wireless networks.

“A switch sees all the traffic that passes,” Fred Schneider of Cornell University told Technology Review.

“If you control the switch, you could set it up so that any time it handles data, it makes a copy and sends it someplace else, or you could change the data while en route — a yes to a no.”

Several former government officials told The New York Times that — if equipment from the companies becomes widely used — then it would be serviced and maintained by company technicians. That would give them wide access to U.S. telecom networks.

Technology Review also noted that Huawei has declined to fully explain its relationship with the Beijing government, or why a Communist Party committee exists inside the company.

Huawei has enjoyed a much warmer reception in Europe, where it does considerable business. Huawei chief Ren Zhengfei recently posed with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Cameron’s residence. But at a time of growing worries about cyber attacks and the integrity of essential networks, the House panel has issued a timely report. This is an area of rising vulnerability.

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.


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