back to article Jeez, what a Huawei to go: Now US senators want Chinese kit ripped out of national leccy grid

Equipment made by Chinese electronics giant Huawei could be torn out of America's electrical grid, if US senators get their way. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee today recommended Uncle Sam's Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security move to keep Huawei hardware out of the Land of the Free's power …

  1. paulll Bronze badge

    what?

    Inverters are control systems?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: what?

      The 'smart' net-connected ones made by Huawei, yes. They're more than the usual dozen or so electronic components doing DC->AC.

      C.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: what?

        Dozen or so components? A simple AC->DC converter perhaps, if you count the diode bridge on the input as one component and use a power IC on the DC side. But DC->AC converters are complicated beasts because of the need to integrate with the voltage and frequency on the AC side. The one in my house isn't smart but it has a big circuit board in addition to all the power electronics.

        I'm not trying to score a point, I hope, just to say that in a big system networking the DC->AC plant must be pretty essential to keep everything working properly. The senators have a legitimate concern - that if the lady gets extradited the US grid may suddenly fall over - but they should have thought of that a whole generation of system specification, design and commissioning ago. Electric grids are not something you change without a lot of thought. Apart from anything else they are a bit of a patchwork all held together with string and glue and it's a testament to the engineers and management that blackouts are so rare.

        ENRON wasn't even controlling the hardware, and look what happened there.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: what?

          "that if the lady gets extradited the US grid may suddenly fall over"

          I call that paranoia, not a legitimate concern. You think the Chinese government is crazy enough to launch an attack on US infrastructure because a private individual is detained? Using equipment that would easily be pinpointed as responsible and fully vindicate the worst hawks? Get a grip on reality.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: what?

            Using equipment that would easily be pinpointed as responsible and fully vindicate the worst hawks?

            I am forced to agree. If Huawei had the capability to bring down the US grid and used it, they'd make themselves an international pariah, and nobody in the developed world would touch any Chinese kit for critical infrastructure. The economic damage would be very long lasting, and affect all Chinese technology, as well as Chinese manufacturing. And that means that the capability would be a "one time" option that you'd only ever use at the most extreme juncture, like in the middle of a full-fat conventional war, and at a time when you believe a few days interruption to power supplies will deliver some strategic benefit.

            Incidentally, the notoriously purchasable senators named might know jack shit about anything other than taking money for votes, but I work in energy, and being able to kill even a big percentage of solar output shouldn't have any effect other than a few brown outs. Solar power naturally builds and drops off fast anyway, so the system has lots of flexible backup to provide power when solar's off its midday peak, but all power grids have to be built with resilience against loss of load or generation for a multitude of reasons, including large scale instantaneous effects.

            This smells like the Halfwits on the Hill are simply looking to jump on the Huawei-bashing bandwagon to get a few campaign donations, with precisely zero evidence for the threat they claim.

            1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

              Re: what?

              I don't work in energy, but I know enough to endorse your viewpoint.

              This is the same panic that grounded flights due to the fear that Y2K would see airplanes plummet out of the sky. Hint: they did not and would not.

      2. paulll Bronze badge

        Re: what?

        Well naturally, the inverters contain control systems that control the inverters.

        Toasters contain timers. Timers are control systems.

        Toasters are not control systems.

        The signatories are either woefully misinformed, or deliberately misresprestenting the facts. Neither is ok.

    2. Wim Ton

      Re: what?

      Grid operators require remote control of large PV installations. However, if a miscreant manages to suddenly add or remove about 30 MW in a limited area, he could cause serious instability, up to a black out.,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: what?

        Grid operators require remote control of large PV installations. However, if a miscreant manages to suddenly add or remove about 30 MW in a limited area, he could cause serious instability, up to a black out.,

        Only in a very badly run grid. Electricity networks are vast and complex. There's ALWAYS something about to go wrong - a tree shorting a 32 kV local feeder line, the 400 kV export connection of a big power station failing, a nuclear plant shutting down on a safety system flagging up, construction workers digging through buried power lines, shut down of a high demand industrial process for any number of reasons. Even your 30 MW solar farm can drop to 10 MW in a matter of perhaps thirty seconds when there's patchy cloud. The same sort of short term intermittency affects wind power, and again the system still has to work when entire GW of wind power quickly ramp down or up.

        Given all this, the system operator needs to be able to cope with significant local variations in generation and demand, by varying the system frequency, using any available energy storage, flexible demand, flexible embedded generation, and fast response generation contracted specifically for the purpose. So if that 30 MW solar plant is a risk to the system, the system's crap, and the solar plant should not have been allowed to be connected.

        1. theblackhand

          Re: what?

          "There's ALWAYS something about to go wrong - a tree shorting a 32 kV local feeder line, the 400 kV export connection of a big power station failing, a nuclear plant shutting down on a safety system flagging up"

          Coal/gas plant's going into an overspeed state will suddenly drop upto 500MW off the grid due to a fuel or mechanical issue so smaller amounts shouldn't cause any issues.

          The attacks on Huawei's reputation appear to have been driven by commercial interests around 5G availability from non-Chinese vendors - I suspect this is politicians adding 1+1 and getting "the Chinese are hiding under the bed".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paranoia?

    Isn't this business getting a tad out of hand? Yes, the Chinese have got to be watched, but to rip out and abandon perfectly good kit (and I DO have a Huawei phone!) does seem a little drastic, when some other countries have given them a clean bill of health. Seems to me that paranoia is suddenly contagious. Some political folk appear to be getting rather obsessed by it all and taking the opportunity to do a bit of grandstanding on the back of dubious claims.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Paranoia?

      Nah, nobody believes there's spyware in the inverters. (For one thing, what would they spy on, exactly? How much do you think that data is worth to Huawei or the Chinese gov't - enough to risk losing such a market? Yeah, right.)

      This is just plain old-fashioned protectionism. American firms have complained that Huawei's kit is better and cheaper than theirs, so please to stop it from competing with them.

      Of course they've been doing that for years, but pre-Trump, senators (as a group) mostly believed in commercial competition and told them "if the competition's product is better than yours, that's the market's way of telling you to make a better product". Now, it's all about "protect American jobs, no matter that they're making worthless tat that just can't hack it unless the market is rigged".

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Paranoia?

      Looking at the list of "signers", I have this Kermit the Frog moment of them running around, waving their arms and shouting something. I'm just not sure what they are doing besides grandstanding.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Paranoia?

      If they are worried, then don't connect the damned things to the Internet! If it is a large solar plant, it shouldn't be on the Internet anyway, it should be using its own private network and at worst, a dedicated, isolate WAN to connect several plants together.

      Either way, it should be isolated from the Internet. If they set it up properly, there is no risk.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: should but didn't

        Whilst some of the legacy power companies in the US may have understand this I'd be surprised if new entrants did. I've fought a lot of battles (lost some won some) where the business case foe a service only stood up if leased lines weren't used but connections to the internet were. Not one of those business cases included the use of hardened VPN connections, at best they used low grade VPN equipment. That may not matter too much when you only have a couple of pilot photovoltiac farms which the grid won't notice disappearing, but as the volume grows they obviously become more important. Unfortunately the business case doesn't scale up the same way and I suspect some if not all of these companies are wide open to hacking. I worked with Scada systems back in the 90's, the old SCADA engineers did understand the implications of security and realised the old production control stuff could not be hardened and insisted it be air gapped and update only supplied using original media from the supplier. Unfortunately those old boys are either long retired or jut too expensive for start ups to employ, the results are you end up with a generation of engineers who are superb technically but don't have the experience to properly impact assess the criticality of security vulnerabilities and have no concept of how a cascade failure can affect a power transmission network.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Letting slip about gringo kit

    Perhaps the good senators were shown that US made kit has lots of backdoors, and therefore assume that the evil Chinese also mandate backdoors in EVERYTHING, 'cos they are evil.

    This is smelling more and more like a trade dispute, and the US trying to maintain its position of market dominance in networking equipment.

    1. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Letting slip about gringo kit

      As Edward Snowden and others have clearly pointed out, my government has itself been guilty of hacking hardware for the purpose of hacking others, sometimes its own citizens without a warrant. But that issue has nothing-at-all to do with this situation. Instead, it's about a 'communist' totalitarian nation, incapable of providing its citizens with creative incentive, that is dependent upon ripping off IP (intellectual property), company and government secrets as a method of growing its own economy and manipulating other countries. That can't happen. There is no question of Huawei being an arm of the Chinese government. There is no question that their government uses Huawei as an extension of its ripoff strategy. Why would anyone in any other country want to contribute to China: Criminal Nation's efforts to steal everything it can access? The ultimate result is the building of China's military and their reestablishment of a Chinese empire. Their military proves that every day out in the real world. At last, after 21 years of abuse, the world is doing something sane to stop the parasitism.

      1. MrDamage

        Re: Letting slip about gringo kit

        > " Instead, it's about a 'communist' totalitarian nation, incapable of providing its citizens with creative incentive, that is dependent upon ripping off IP (intellectual property), company and government secrets as a method of growing its own economy and manipulating other countries."

        Yes. How dare China steal from America's playbook on how to steal somebody else's playbook.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Letting slip about gringo kit

      "This is smelling more and more like a trade dispute, and the US trying to maintain its position of market dominance in networking equipment."

      You are almost certainly correct. However, what made US companies think their technical expertise would stay proprietary when they outsourced the manufacture to the "enemy"?

  4. _LC_
    Mushroom

    They praise the competition while they're ahead

    They praise the competition while they're ahead, crushing developing countries into the ground. Oh, but beware - thy shall never get ahead of them or else... :-P

  5. jake Silver badge

    If they are REALLY worried about this kind of thing ...

    ... the Grid shouldn't be connected to TehIntraWebTubes in the first place. Proprietary command and control is where it's at; using the Internet is the lazy/cheap way to do things, and by definition will never be secure.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: If they are REALLY worried about this kind of thing ...

      There's something to be said for not "connecting to the Internet". There's a lot of equipment being sold that doesn't use it but instead communicated via the power lines they are controlling or monitoring which has worked very well for quite a long time. But then, TheIntraWebTubes have become part of the buzzword/hi tech generation.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: If they are REALLY worried about this kind of thing ...

        It doesn't need to be connected to the internet, Canadian Aluminium and Steel are threats to national security and so get special 45% tariffs

  6. Yes Me Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Naive question

    Isn't economic warfare against somebody's rules? The UN's or the WTO's? Isn't it about time for international sanctions against the USA?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Naive question

      Remember the golden rule - whoever has the gold makes the rules.

      Expect to see a discrete unofficial anti-Apple campaign in China followed by a lot of African and Asian countries becoming completely Hauwei if they want to keep exporting to the mainland

    2. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Naive question

      It is indeed naive to think the sanctions must not be directed at China: Criminal Nation. You have some reading to do and comprehension to discover about what China has been deliberately and blatantly doing to the world over the last 21 years. I elaborate upon this situation in two other comments I've made in this thread. This isn't about competition in the marketplace. It's about consistent and long term crime and parasitism directed at the rest of the world by China for their own benefit and no one else's.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Naive question

        "You have some reading to do and comprehension to discover about what China has been deliberately and blatantly doing to the world over the last 21 years."

        Yes, they've been stealing the historical US playbook contents. The US took absolutely no notice of patents or copyright in Europe for much of their history. China has been doing the same to the US that the US did to the rest of the world.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Naive question

      "National security" is one of the accepted justifications for ignoring the rules - apparently being foreign is a threat to the security of the USA ( unless you're also a major buyer, in which case destroying the odd trade center is no threat at all ).

  7. ThatOne Silver badge
    Coat

    Next: Chinese food.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      That'd be about right except that, having been to China (and loved it), what Americans (at the least) call "Chinese food" ain't eaten in China. So about right in the accuracy department for politicians to squawk about.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "what Americans (at the least) call "Chinese food" ain't eaten in China."

        That's a mighty broad brush you are painting with, pardner. Perhaps if you were to insert the word "some" between the first two words of the quote you might be taken at least a trifle seriously.

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Chinese food is slightly different all over the world, the cooks adjust it to meet local expectations ... much like what we call "Indian" food - everyone cooks up what the locals will buy.

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Same as people in the UK putting cream in carbonara, whereas in Italy that's a hanging offence.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Same as people in the UK putting cream in carbonara, whereas in Italy that's a hanging offence.

              Well at least we can do what we like with spag bog, since that's a bona fide British invention.

              And don't anybody give me "it's based on a classic Italian ragu". Italians and upmarket chefs have pooh-poohed spag bog as something that doesn't exist in Italy, whereas it certainly does here. I suppose Italy could try an IP theft case against Britain, but the principle might provoke China to try their luck over the IP for pasta....

      2. _LC_
        Thumb Up

        So true.

        I can confirm this. Chinese could not identify what is being sold here (Germany) by "Chinese restaurants".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've not found a takeawy that ships from China...

      1. jake Silver badge

        There are many takeaways here on the West Coast which import Chinese ingredients that can't be sourced here in the US.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Next: Chinese food."

      Nah, they'll just rename it. Freedom Fries anyone?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Just to set the record straight ...

        ... so-called "Freedom Fries" was the brain-child of disgraced congressman and convicted felon Bob Ney (served 17 months of a 30 months sentence). Nobody in the US paid all that much attention to the supposed name change, other than the Press and the usual rabid Republican sycophants, who are a very small, if vocal, subset of the population as a whole. I can quite honestly say that I never saw the item on a restaurant menu, even when it was supposedly an in thing. As usual, painting the entire US population with the same broad brush just makes you look silly.

        1. _LC_

          Re: Just to set the record straight ...

          "...Nobody in the US paid all that much attention to the supposed name change, other than the Press..."

          And you don't see that as a problem? ;-)

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Just to set the record straight ...

          "As usual, painting the entire US population with the same broad brush just makes you look silly."

          Sorry, I missed off the Joke icon.

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Fear of fear itself

    The disinformation and pseudo-panic is getting ever more shrill

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fear of fear itself

      How do we know that Microsoft won't take control of the internet and all that is connected to it? In true British style I'll support the underdog and my next phone will be a Huawei.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Fear of fear itself

        Because The Internet as a whole laughs at Redmond. Haven't you noticed?

      2. soulrideruk Bronze badge

        Re: Fear of fear itself

        I am ahead of the game, my last 3 have all been Huawei...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fascist Playbook in action

    Blame foreigners. Create a state of fear and panic. Create an 'us vs. them' culture. Shit-talk legitimate news. Build a wall. Militarize the police. Be corrupt, both politically, morally and financially. Lie about every reality and truth. Show your love for other dictators.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Fascist Playbook in action

      One wonders what Idi Amin would have done with twitter ... I suspect Trump's blustering bullshit is a mere shadow of what might have been.

      Thankfully, the world didn't really miss anything.

      1. Paul Herber

        Re: Fascist Playbook in action

        If I bin havin' my way dat Trump comin' to downtown Kampala to set up de bes' golf course in de worl', meybe bringin'd de disgustin' democrats wid him, I helpin' by givin' dem de bullets in de back o' de bonces wid de famous Wembley 45.

        <RIP Alan Coren>

    2. naive

      Re: Fascist Playbook in action

      On the websites of my employer we have each day 3000-5000 brute force attacks originating from Chinese ip-addresses. This is far over 95% of the total amount of inappropriate incoming URL's.

      These are customized brute force attacks, attempting to exploit weaknesses in the software components used.

      So I guess you must be right that the distrust against Huawei, or any Chinese made product in the core of network infrastructure, is just unfounded warmongering.

      Europe better gets its act together, and starts teaming up with the USA, or it will become enslaved by Germany and China.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fascist Playbook in action

        And er, you think the Chinese military are so inept they do it from their own IP blocks? Or have you clocked that you're just getting hit by a standard automated pen test run by a script kiddie?

  10. hoola

    Lobbying

    Which companies (if any) make these in the US and are on the lobbying bandwagon?

    This smells of money lining pockets for no good reason.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Lobbying

      It's just a side effect of a "Black Swan" government - sure, lobbying is a part of this but generally it's the politicians in power "playing to the base" ... wait until 2020 when election season rolls around - it will get much worse.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  11. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Alterior motive?

    Solar producers have got to remove massively expensive inverter systems and replace them with more expensive inverter systems.

    Electricity generated by these systems suddenly becomes very expensive, albeit due to an unforseen, mandatory expense on the balance sheet.

    Questions are asked about government investment in 'very expensive power' producers.

    Oil and gas producers do more fracking, drilling and cigar smoking ...

  12. gnarlymarley

    tantrum?

    Sounds like the demosquats are not getting their way with Trump, so they are trying to bite anyone to start a war? The demosquats will probably go so far that they are the only ones that are dead in the end.....

  13. adam payne Silver badge

    "Our federal government should consider a ban on the use of Huawei inverters in the United States and work with state and local regulators to raise awareness and mitigate potential threats."

    What threats? still haven't seen any real evidence.

  14. Aodhhan Bronze badge

    Man you're gullible

    An article gets over dramatic, uses wild and crazy words, and spins in some hysteria in order to make a story out of nothing, and so many buy into it.

    I will sell you some land in Louisiana, and even throw in a bridge.

    There are no legislators wanting to "RIP" out inverters, as if they contain a virus which will plague the states.

    For those who think there isn't any direct threat, then you don't understand industrial control systems. Nearly every piece of hardware is now controlled by some sort of software. Oh yeah, and many of the protocols used by ICS hardware wasn't exactly designed with security in mind--including wireless.

    So yes, the concern is valid, and banning future purchases of the product as well as looking into where the dangers are most critical is in line with due diligence. Especially when electrical power is everything these days.

    Given this, nobody is in a panic or demanding wholesale changes.

    Stop letting someone with a typewriter, a thesaurus and an over active imagination turn you into an idiot.

  15. Gnosis_Carmot

    If they aren't talking about Lenovo gear too....

    Then they are just targeting this one company for some reason. Lenovo has gotten caught actually putting spyware into BIOSes.

    1. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
      Megaphone

      Re: If they aren't talking about Lenovo gear too....

      I entirely agree. You can't pay me to use Lenovo gear for exactly the same reason Huawei is being called out as guaranteed abusers of their customers.

      When I find seriously creative companies with decent products in China that are not directed at abusing the rest of the world, I support them. I buy their products. I'll provide examples upon request. But anyone, any country supporting and enabling China: Criminal Nation's parasitism of the rest of the world is going to be abused by them. That's the consistent, documented record of China's behavior, with Chinese companies being one arm of that abuse.

  16. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    LOL. So the Senator calling for backdoors in encryption is crying that potential backdoors in inverters are bad. Oh, those aren't "our" backdoors.

    Seriously, everyone has long been saying the grids could be hacked at any time. I fail to see what makes solar inverters so special other than it's made by "them".

  17. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    Go

    No Paranoia Required

    #MySmartGovernment <- What a joy to be able to use this hashtag, for a change.

    China: Criminal Nation has been documented to have been hacking the world since 1998, the year the Clinton Administration granted them 'Most Favored Nation Status', when they helped form and financed the Red Hacker Alliance. Eventually, the group was integrated into the government and is now commonly called APT1 or Advanced Persistent Threat 1. The Chinese government puts its hands on and into any company it pleases. This is clearly the case with Huawei, making the company entirely untrustworthy. Despite the company's CEO ranting ‘The US can’t crush us’, this situation has nothing to do with competition or wrecking Chinese business concerns. It's about the blatant long term fact that China steals IP (intellectual property), company secrets and government secrets from all over the world. Believing China's behavior will stop is ridiculous. There is no paranoia required. Instead, it is sound, smart, common sense to end China's abuse of others.

    Thank you, #MySmartGovernment.

    As for my wishes for China, I'd like the 'communist' totalitarian garbage to end forever. I'd like the return of Chinese incentive to create, invent and innovate making them an actual, factual contributor to technology instead of their current role as parasites. Ripping off the world provides no sane future for China or anyone else. Creativity is the driver of future progress. China's current criminal strategy only engenders stagnation and international contention.

    1. _LC_
      Facepalm

      Re: No Paranoia Required

      You missed the meeting:

      https://vimeo.com/237489146

  18. Claverhouse Bronze badge
    Devil

    Safe Forever !

    America needs to affirm what Trumpo and The Senators say, and put in place strong protections that keep out all inventions and energies not initially invented in the USA, permanently --- nothing can be trusted that is not wholly AMERICAN.

    Starting of course with Russia [ Putin and Communism and Czarism ]; Germany [ NAZIS ! ]; Great Britain [ The Auld Enemy and arrogant ruler of the British Empire ]; China [ Communism & Pipsqueak Upstart ]; Cuba [ The Castros and Taking American Sugar away from it's rightful owner ]; Mexico [ Stealing American Land by living there first ]; Old Europe [ Frequent Disobedience and culpable uninterest in Freedom! ] etc. etc., but eventually leading to shunning all nations and living happily without foreign influence: Ourselves Alone !

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Safe Forever !

      "Starting of course with Russia [ Putin and Communism and Czarism ]; Germany [ NAZIS ! ]; Great Britain [ The Auld Enemy and arrogant ruler of the British Empire ]; China [ Communism & Pipsqueak Upstart ]; Cuba [ The Castros and Taking American Sugar away from it's rightful owner ]; Mexico [ Stealing American Land by living there first ]; Old Europe [ Frequent Disobedience and culpable uninterest in Freedom! ] etc. etc., but eventually leading to shunning all nations and living happily without foreign influence: Ourselves Alone !"

      Considering your penchant for historical wrongs, you might want to take a look at the USAs wholesale patent and copyright theft that they built their nation on. They only embraced international copyright and patents when they had something of their own to protect.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Safe Forever !

        As opposed to Britan's wholesale theft of the history of most of the known world? If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a look in the British Museum.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Safe Forever !

          I wasn't defending Britain, I was pointing out the OPs flawed defence of the USA. He'd already taken a justified swipe at the UK which I didn't feel the need to elaborate or expand upon.

  19. Electricity_Guy

    Let's take this to it's logical conclusion....

    I think they should take this to it's logical conclusion, scrap any device or equipment that is designed or built by a Chinese company whether it be a a passive or active component, PCA, storage device complete equipment.

    Finding alternative suppliers would be interesting.

    The company I work for make complex measurement systems that were designed in the US and Europe and are manufactured in the US but their country of original is listed as China because by value the product content is predominantly Chinese - packaged chips, wiring, passive components, LEDs, connectors, pcbs etc.

    Go figure that out.

  20. 080

    Why?

    Is the US dislike of Huawei because it told the NRA et al to sod off when they demanded a backdoor?

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