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back to article GCHQ spooks told: Break Huawei's grip on 'The Cell'

British spooks have been ordered to keep a closer eye on the Huawei employees who inspect Blighty's critical networking hardware for vulns and backdoors. From now on, GCHQ will take a "leading and directing role" in choosing the staff who work at the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) in Banbury, Oxfordshire. This …

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Silver badge

Every activity should have an oversight board

"An oversight board staffed by GCHQ spooks, Whitehall civil servants and a a senior member of the National Security Secretariat will closely examine Huawei's activities."

In this way, we will know, to the nearest penny, how much they spend on snacks and drinks, how far they travel to work and how much time they spend on visits to the toilet. Thanks to GCHQ involvement, any attempt to phone or e-mail contacts in China will be detected.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice

Did I read GCHQ to put backdoor code directly in Hauwei kit for UK market?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nice

You might have read the ravings of a couple of lunatics going on about how Openreach VDSL modems have a back door for the DoD.

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Facepalm

Not that I buy into this US-led paranoia about Huawei kit...

But how the hell did we end up with a crucial bit of our national security investigative infrastructure in the hands of a private company, foreign or not? Particularly one that supplies the very equipment it's supposed to investigate?

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Re: Not that I buy into this US-led paranoia about Huawei kit...

Its called Thatcherism.

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Re: Not that I buy into this US-led paranoia about Huawei kit...

I think that System-X by GPT predates Thatherism by quite a bit (complete with parallel routing to copy all your packets to Cheltenham). GPT wss certainly a very private company.

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Re: Not that I buy into this US-led paranoia about Huawei kit...

Privatisation.

GCHQ got asked to do it, so they asked the nice chaps at the GPO to do it because knew about this new fangled telephone stuff. Forgetting that the GPO had now been privatised BT sub-contracted it to the lowest bidder which was Huawei

In a way it's a beautiful example of PPI at work. A bit like the case a few years ago when the Russians came in with the best bid for the Army's new helicopter.

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Bronze badge

Re: how the hell did we end up with...

In ca 2000 BT invited bidders for major contracts to modernise their network. The Marconi company was a bidder, but was awarded zilch.

Didn't surprise me, I once worked for them (but in a different branch). A company run by "management", technical ability counted for nothing.

After that they closed down.

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Headmaster

Re: how the hell did we end up with...

Marconi was the preferred bidder. I worked alongside guys who were testing the narrow/broadband routers. The Marconi ones worked fine, they did design them.

They would carry on working, carrying traffic even while updating the software However the price was £4K and BT, especially a certain female politician board member didn't want to pay that.

Huawei got the contract for £2K a pop so there it was. The new kit wouldn't work anywhere near as well as the Marconi kit, it would fall over while updating for example. It all went down the pan. That was the once much vaunted 21CN ( 21st century network ) that was.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, I've worked with a lot of former Marconi people

Some good engineers. Their SCP product, which formed part of our IN solution was very solid. Marconi was badly sold down the pan. I don't think the national interest was remotely considered when it came to buying this most important piece of national infrastructure.

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Unhappy

Re: Not that I buy into this US-led paranoia about Huawei kit...

"I think that System-X by GPT predates Thatherism by quite a bit (complete with parallel routing to copy all your packets to Cheltenham). GPT wss certainly a very private company."

You missed the feature of shutting down 90% of all lines for "public order" issues and civil defense.

Then GPT found the thing was so expensive no one wanted to buy it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, I've worked with a lot of former Marconi people

"Their SCP product"

Theirs? Or acquired when GEC bought Fore (and also Raltec) for top money because they were short of relevant products at the peak of the dot con bubble, GEC having largely put their largely taxpayer-funded profits into their "cash mountain" rather than investing in R+D of their own. So when they needed to be competitive in double quick time, they had to go shopping for a company (or two) to buy. After all, it had always worked with their other product lines.

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Re: how the hell did we end up with...

Marconi loosing out in BT's 21CN procurement killed the company. Their shares where near junk, i was certain Marconi was going to get the contract as they where already so entrenched in BT's infrastructure so i bought some shares confident of making a killing. I lost thousands, but am sadder that we lost Marconi, with BT's (our) money going to shore up the Chinese up start. I feel it was a political gesture by the then Labour government to try and win favour with their Chinese communist cousins.

This was an age where the PSTN was trusted enough to carry unencrypted point to point traffic up to restricted, wireless cards needed to be removed (not just software disabled) from laptops & GCHQ's warnings on Huawei ignored.

http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2009/03/30/huawei_threat/

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Anonymous Coward

Sempill

This story brought to mind this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Forbes-Sempill,_19th_Lord_Sempill Japan and not China, but still. It was probably someone like him who decided to let Huawei decide who tests the equipment.

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Maybe they are the right people

Anyone wondering if the fuss the Americains are making about the Chinese kit is that it does NOT have the backdoor they wanted. A european supplier would have much more trouble resisting the slurpers.

I understand Huawei offered to supplied the source code to their firmware and still the Yanks backlisted them. It is the experience of trying to work with the yanks which gave them the know how to do audits.

The chinese may or may not spy on us via Huawai. Huawei have not been caught and people have been looking. We know the yanks and GCHQ ARE spying on us.

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Big Brother

Re: Maybe they are the right people

Echoes a post I made a month or so back about the NSA dislike if Huawei, albeit on a Google story.

From this story - "The cell will be able to maintain "operational independence", but under the watchful gaze of GCHQ."

Do you believe this either? No? Me neither.

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Holmes

Brilliant double-bluff.

Clearly, all gear leaving 'The Cell' will be examined by QinetiQ to establish the PLA's ability to covertly install back-doors.

Then all the gear leaving QinetiQ will be examined by Mossad to establish QinetiQ's ability to covertly install back-doors.

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah ... right....

"In September, Huawei exec Professor Sanqi Li told us there was "no substance" to claims his firm was a threat to Blighty's national security."

Just ask anyone who runs an email server or a web server about the amount of attempts to break/abuse servers that come from China. Yes I know China is a large country but when you see whole rafts of IP addresses in the same range all doing exactly the same things you start wondering how effective that wonderful Great Firewall of China is - it certainly does not seem to stop any machine connecting to random machines and ports out on the internet. These attacks come from from ISPs, Educational Departments and Government Departments. Its either gross incompetence on behalf of their IT support staff or its government sponsored.

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Re: Yeah ... right....

from univertsities and ISPs you say? I seem to remember reading something about state sponsored hackers breaking into a university in order to then break into the major comms links in China. I think the wistle-blower was Snowdon or somesuch. Can remember if he said who was actually doing the nasty.

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Silver badge

Re: Yeah ... right....

What kind of content do I need to host so that I can get on their block list?

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Re: Yeah ... right....

Talk approvingly - or quite possibly, at all - about the Falun Gong.

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Big Brother

Just wondering

Is this a case of the wolves being in charge of the hen house? Or are the hens in charge of the wolves? Or maybe there's no hens and no wolves, just weasels?

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Black Helicopters

The Cell?

This sounds like the next in the Resident Evil series - er, hang on a minute there appear to be choppers circling the house for some reas.............

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Black Helicopters

Only bankrupt Broken Britain could consider using nationals from an unfriendly state to OK its security apparatus.

Can you imagine if in 1939 the conversation in Bletchley Park has been "The 'Bombe' you say, Alan? Well we'd best get Jerry to come over and give it the OK, don't you think?"

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Rol
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Everything else gets outsourced, so why not this?

Have the national and personal security of the web up for tender with one very important bullet point added to the stipulations, that is, if you screw up you are sued dry and then cast into a pit of rabid dogs along with all your family. I think that would work far better than the threat of early retirement on full pay when GCHQ do the inevitable, oops, we made a "mistake"

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Silver badge

"Huawei has faced repeated accusations that it spies on behalf of the Chinese state"

On behalf of? Huawei IS the Chinese state. Half the board are former military.

It's not odd that Huawei spies, it's par for the course for any large Chinese company, what is odd is that Britain would give it contract to "inspect Blighty's critical networking hardware for vulns and backdoors". Absolutely bizarre.

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Big Brother

GCHQ has backdoors into your LAN ..

"A paper released earlier this month by a group of security researchers has outlined the technical details behind a potential Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) program likely used by the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and their American counterpart, the NSA. link

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Anonymous Coward

Re: GCHQ has backdoors into your LAN ..

From the NetworkWorld article:

"When asked for comment, BT responded to CSO with a statement saying, "We comply with the law wherever we operate and do not disclose customer data in any jurisdiction unless legally required to do so.""

This from the company that brought you Stratis Scleparis (senior man at BT Retail and then senior man at Phorm) and also denied they were using Phorm.

Sorry BT, you destroyed your zero credibility with "assurances" like that. Wise people don't believe you.

It's not that long since anyone suggesting that NSA/GCHQ were doing mass interceptions would have been accused of being a conspiracy theorist. Given what we now know, I don't have any problem in principle with the concept that BT are capable of doing dodgy dealings on a grand scale.

Whether the latest VDSL modem accusations have any credibility is a different story. John Naismith and the AAISP's Revd Kennard say they haven't, so who am I to disagree.

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FAIL

Re: GCHQ has backdoors into your LAN ..

If you actually read the laughably entitled "Full Disclosure" pdf you'd see that the people concerned are rabid nutters who would fit right in on the worst of the tabloids.

The fact that this "disclosure" shite is sourced from blog posts related to third-party firmware from months if not years ago should also be a clue to it being total unmitigated bollox.

The twats concerned have been doing their best to plant links to "Full Disclosure" on various forums. They seem to be annoyed when people on those forums point out that they are fucking morons.

Hence the downvotes from "anonymous cowards" who are actually the twats involved in this crap.

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Bronze badge

Re: GCHQ has backdoors into your LAN ..

> link

Sorry!

This URL does not exist on NetworkWorld.com.

jonathan@Odin:~$ date

Wed Dec 18 12:18:08 GMT 2013

jonathan@Odin:~ play ./spooky/X-files.ogg

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Re: GCHQ has backdoors into your LAN ..

"Researchers accuse BT of placing backdoors into firmware"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "This URL does not exist on NetworkWorld.com."

"This URL does not exist on NetworkWorld.com."

Indeed it doesn't. Whoever posted the not-link didn't test it (that's OK, testing's generally optional these days) and it had some extra markup at the end. It should probably have looked something like:

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/121613-report-accuses-bt-of-supplying-276975.html

(until such time as El Reg autoclifckify these things, you'll have to copy+paste the URL, unless your browser does that for you).

I'm not sure it'll help a great deal though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: GCHQ has backdoors into your LAN ..

AC here, but not "involved in this crap" other than as an interested observer (not even downvoting, yet, due to insufficient data).

I'm quite happy to accept what you say, but can you (or other readers) perhaps point to somewhere where less-informed readers can find a more detailed demolition of the content, and in particular the technical errors? Feel free to extend your response beyond the irrelevance of DoD address space and hard-to-undo line jacks (e.g. to why anyone should trust, or want to trust, a box from BT that has access to ALL your network traffic that passes through that box).

I can't add much definitive enlightenment myself.

Thanking you.

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"no substance" to claims his firm was a threat to Blighty's national security

Mandy Rice Davies applies.

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Pirate

At no point in time did it occur to anyone that outsourcing infrastructure security to agents of an enemy power is a f*cking stupid idea?

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Anonymous Coward

"did it occur to anyone that outsourcing infrastructure security to agents of an enemy power is a f*cking stupid idea?"

I'd be very surprised if the idea hadn't occurred to various technical and engineering types. Unfortunately they either were afraid to speak out or they weren't the ones being listened to when the decision was made.

"Off message" => "not a team player" => bad performance rating => salary continuation problem.

Facts and logic need not necessarily be involved in this kind of decision, it's just as likely to be about "showing leadership".

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Anonymous Coward

My dear boy, if you recall the lady was not for turning she was for selling, anything and every fecking thing. So it goes on with these people who have no morals whatsoever. See you down at Whites later for a tincture or twain. Pip, pip!

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