Tag Archives: Huawei

NSA embedded surveillance tools within exported US computer hardware

While the United States has warned against buying Chinese routers due to surveillance concerns, a new book about the Edward Snowden revelations states America has been intercepting and tinkering with routers intended for foreign customers.

According to Glenn Greenwald – one of the journalists entrusted with Snowden’s leaked documents – the National Security Agency has been implanting devices into routers headed overseas since at least 2010.

In an extract from Greenwald’s new book, titled “No Place to Hide,” the journalist states the NSA “routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers, and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers.”

Once the agency gets its hands on these products, it embeds devices that are linked to the NSA’s own system, giving officials access to foreign networks and information from all the users connected to that network.

“In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure,” a 2010 NSA report states, according to Greenwald. “This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network.”

The revelation comes after US officials and lawmakers spent years criticizing Chinese telecommunications companies like ZTE and Huawei for potentially looking to sell their products to Americans while collecting data for the Chinese government.

Glenn Greenwald.

In 2012, a report by the House Intelligence Committee stated the companies “may be violating United States laws” and have “not followed United States legal obligations or international standards of business behavior”.

Although no evidence was uncovered to back up the allegations, the committee still pushed American companies to reject products from ZTE and Huawei.

“Private-sector entities in the United States are strongly encouraged to consider the long-term security risks associated with doing business with either ZTE or Huawei for equipment or services,” the committee stated.

“US network providers and systems developers are strongly encouraged to seek other vendors for their projects. Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”

The news also comes less than two months after it was revealed that the NSA spied on Huawei, as well as the China’s Trade Ministry, banks, companies, and top political officials. As RT reported in March, the campaign against Huawei took place a few years before lawmakers urged American companies to stay away from Chinese products, and was intended to explore potential links to China’s cyber warfare units.

Whether or not it discovered any evidence for this, however, remains unknown.

According to Greenwald, it is “quite possible” that Chinese companies are tampering with their products in order to install surveillance technology, but it wouldn’t be any different from what the US is doing on its own.

Meanwhile, hacktivist group Anonymous has called for a protest against Greenwald as he sets out on his book tour for “No Place to Hide.” The ire directed at Greenwald comes from the journalist’s relationship with Pierre Omidyar, Greenwald’s boss at First Look Media and the ultimate owner of PayPal. Omidyar’s PayPal was hacked three years ago by those now deemed the “PayPal 14” for refusing to process donations to WikiLeaks after the online organization published classified US government documents given to it by US Army leaker Chelsea Manning.

Omidyar, Anonymous says, allowed the blocked donations as a “means of control,” and he and Greenwald have since only expressed “tepid ‘support’ for the PayPal 14” as the group faces jail time and $80,000 in court-ordered restitution.

Anonymous also criticizes Greenwald’s – and Omidyar’s – place as the possessor of a major cache of public documents regarding National Security Agency surveillance supplied by leaker Edward Snowden. Anonymous said that, nearly a year after the NSA leaks were first published, Greenwald has positioned himself in a cozy, lucrative spot by forming a partnership with billionaire Omidyar while hawking his book – promised to have more NSA leaks – for a profit. Greenwald’s handling of the leaks has kept “aggressive, non-celebrity journalists from finding answers and pro-freedom hackers from building better defenses.”

The protest, Anonymous wrote, should aim to explain the relationship between the journalist and his financial benefactor.

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China demands end to US spying activities after new Snowden leak

China has demanded that the US stop the snooping activities of its National Security Agency against Chinese officials and companies. Beijing has also asked Washington to explain the reports on the illegal spying.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said on Monday that China is “extremely concerned” about allegations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) infiltrated the servers of Chinese telecom giant, Huawei, targeting the Chinese Trade Ministry, national banks, leading telecommunications companies and the country’s top officials.

“China has already lodged many complaints with the United States about this. We demand that the United States makes a clear explanation and stop such acts,” the spokesman stressed.

Hong cited media reports on “eavesdropping, surveillance and stealing of secrets by the United States of other countries, including China,” which were based on the revelations of the former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.

The Snowden leaks published by The New York Times and Der Spiegel on Sunday exposed the details of the NSA’s activities in China, which allegedly involved spying on the former Chinese President Hu Jintao.

China’s reaction comes amid the European trip of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met US President Barack Obama in The Hague on Monday.

The US first lady, Michelle Obama, on Saturday addressed college students in Beijing, saying that open access to online information is a “universal right.”

However, the two countries’ governments clearly had a different understanding of “open access” to the global net.

“We consistently believe internet communication technologies should be used to develop a country’s economy in a normal way, and not be used in stealing secret information, phone-tapping and monitoring,” Hong said.

Huawei Technologies is the world’s largest network equipment supplier and one of the leading mobile phone handset vendors, which employs about 150,000 specialists around the world, and made $39 billion in profits in 2013.

In 2012, the US Congress called on American firms to stay away from doing business with Huawei, justifying the boycott by a “national security threat” allegedly posed by the company to US security. NSA then used the same pretext to launch the alleged spying activities on the Chinese company. According to the leaked NSA documents, the major goal of the operation was to find proof that Huawei is closely cooperating with cyber warfare units in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In view of recent revelations, Huawei’s vice president of external affairs, William B. Plummer, called the alleged NSA spying an “irony.”

“If such espionage has been truly conducted, then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation,” Plummer said.

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NSA spied on Chinese govt and telecom giant Huawei – Snowden docs

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has spied on Chinese leaders and businesses, new Snowden docs indicate. Yet it seems that China’s telecom giant, Huawei, was the core target for the NSA campaign in China.

The new portion of revelations from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, published by Der Spiegel and The New York Times, has exposed the great interest of the US secret service in obtaining data from China.

It has been revealed that America’s NSA has multiple targets in the world’s second largest economy, among them the Chinese Trade Ministry, national banks, leading telecommunications companies and the country’s top officials, like former Chinese President Hu Jintao.

But even against that background, one Chinese company received the special attention of the NSA: it is Huawei Technologies, the world’s second largest network equipment supplier, which employs 150,000 specialists around the world and can boast an impressive $38.6 in annual revenues.

The company produces a large number of electronic products, among which are cutting edge network equipment, such as WLAN routers and fiber optic hardware. For the America’s NSA, which is craving total domination in global cyberspace, full control over these technologies is decisive.

Back in 2012 the Congress called on US firms to stay away from doing business with the Chinese telecom giant snapping at the heels of America’s Cisco Systems Inc., the world’s #1 telecom equipment producer, due to a national security threat the company posed, according to them. Another Chinese telecom giant, the ZTE Corp, was also named as a threat to US security.

The documents dug up by Edward Snowden have exposed that three years prior to the US boycott of Huawei, the NSA launched a major cyber offensive against the company, an operation dubbed ‘Shotgiant’, which involved the FBI and close contacts with the White House intelligence coordinator.

Huawei CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei

The 2010 dated NSA document cited by the New York Times claims that the major goal of the operation was to find proof that Huawei is closely cooperating with cyber warfare units in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which expand the PLA’s electronic warfare and SIGNIT (Signals intelligence) capabilities.

The NSA documents do not contain information as to whether proof of Huawei assisting the PLA has been found as a result of the special operation.

The NYT reports that the NSA is constantly tracking over 20 groups of Chinese hackers, more than half of them believed to be PLA and Navy cyber units.

“If we can determine the company’s plans and intentions,” an NSA analyst wrote back in 2010, “we hope that this will lead us back to the plans and intentions of the PRC (People’s Republic of China).”

It has also been revealed that in early 2009 US government hackers succeeded in infiltrating servers of Huawei’s central office in Shenzhen, China’s ‘industrial heart’, and straddled the company’s communications.

The NSA gained access to an unprecedented goldmine of valuable information.

Describing the breach of the Huawei servers, one of the NSA secret internal documents from the collection of Edward Snowden maintained that “We currently have good access and so much data that we don’t know what to do with it.”

The NSA was able to read Huawei’s email archives starting from January 2009, including those of the company’s top executives, CEO Ren Zhengfei and Chairwoman Sun Yafang, reported Germany’s Der Spiegel.

The NSA downloaded documentation on 1,400 major company customers, along with engineering documents on Huawei products, which ended up with the US secret service getting access to the individual source code of any Huawei products.

The breach of the source code meant that the US was able to get easy access to any network using Huawei hardware employing “back doors” in its equipment’s software.

“Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products,” the NSA document said, adding that in order to “gain access to networks of interest” around the world “We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products,” the document said, specifying that the agency was interested in “high priority targets — Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Cuba.”

According to the NSA, a potential threat posed by the widespread use of Huawei equipment is so “unique” that “the intelligence community structures are not suited for handling issues that combine economic, counterintelligence, military influence and telecommunications infrastructure from one entity.”

US President Barack Obama (L) is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping

The NSA expressed concerns that the Chinese are not only controlling an increasing amount of world data flow, a segment previously dominated by Western companies, but are effectively opening up new technology standards determined by US business, thus making American and Western firms “less relevant”.

Huawei has already issued a statement condemning the US’s activities and double standard policies towards the Chinese company.

“If it is true, the irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us,” said William B. Plummer, the Huawei’s vice president of external affairs. “The information presented in Der Spiegel and the New York Times article reaffirms the need for all companies to be vigilant at all times,” he said.

“If such espionage has been truly conducted, then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation,” Plummer said.

“Huawei has declared its willingness to work with governments, industry stakeholders and customers in an open and transparent manner, to jointly address the global challenges of network security and data integrity,” said William B. Plummer, Huawei’s vice president of external affairs, in an email to The Associated Press.

Following the long-ago adopted practice, the NSA has officially refused to comment on specific alleged activities of the agency.

The NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, said the agency only engages “valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements.”

“In addition, we do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” Vines said in a statement emailed to the AP.

Another NSA spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, commented on the issue: “Our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs of our country.”

The revelations published by Der Spiegel and The New York Times come ahead of the six-day official visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Europe, where he will hold talks with EU leaders who also became victims of the NSA electronic surveillance, in particular German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Monday, Xi Jinping will meet with President Barack Obama in The Hague.

Also, the US first lady, Michelle Obama, is currently visiting China. Addressing an audience of college students in Beijing on Saturday, she said that open access to online information is a “universal right.”

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