An brief story buried in the New York Times business pages suggests that China could be piping your personal data into its computers back in Beijing.
Monday night’s story by Nicole Perlroth and John Markoff, which appeared in print today, was innocuously headlined “Symantec Dissolves a Chinese Alliance,” suggesting it was run-the-mill industry news.
Maybe it is in Silicon Valley, but it astonished me.
“Less than four years after Huawei Technologies and Symantec teamed up to develop computer network security products, the joint venture is being dismantled because Symantec feared the alliance with the Chinese company would prevent it from obtaining United States government classified information about cyberthreats.”
Now, I may be the last person outside Silicon Valley to know it, but I was startled to learn that the world’s dominant supplier of software to protect home consumer and business computers from unauthorized entry was in cahoots with a company in China, the world’s nest of hacking vipers.
And Huawei is not just any Chinese company, it turns out.
“National security concerns have long dogged Huawei,” the Times reported.
“Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and chief executive, is a former officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army, and American government officials and regulators have repeatedly raised concerns about Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government.”
Ownership of the company is opaque and its staff “evasive” on its structure, analysts found in 2010. Despite annual revenues approaching $30 billion, it is not publicly listed.
Ren, who joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1978, is a definitely a player. When he retired as a PLA major in 1982, according to Wikipedia, he “was elected member of the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of China."
Under Ren’s leadership, Huawei has been growing at a rate of 33% a year, fueled by cheap labor and Chinese government backing, analysts say.
Meanwhile, the lower you read in the Times story, the more astonishing it becomes.
“In 2008, Huawei was forced to abandon a bid for 3Com, which makes antihacking computer software for the United States military, among other products, after an American government panel raised questions about the national security risks. In 2010, Huawei lost a bid to supply mobile telecom equipment to Sprint Nextel after lawmakers expressed similar concerns.”
The Times’s Bits blog added more on that score today.
“Security-related concerns are hurting Huawei’s growth elsewhere,” the unsigned item said.
“Australia has blocked it from bidding on contracts in the $38 billion Australian National Broadband Network, citing security concerns, Reuters reported. The Australian plan is the largest infrastructure project in the country’s history.”
Question: Who let the Chinese fox get into the U.S. henhouse to start with?