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Without proof, is Huawei still a national security threat? – TechCrunch

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It’s Huawei vs. the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe and Japan.

It’s almost as if the world’s biggest surveillance superpowers don’t want Huawei cell tower and networking router equipment inside critical networks in their countries, amid concerns of the company’s links to the Chinese military.

Huawei, they say, could be spying for the Chinese — and that presents a national security risk.

But there’s a problem. Years of congressional hearings and “inconclusive” hardware inspections have presented a mixed picture on the threat that Huawei may, or may not pose. Despite the fact that the company’s founder and president is a former officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army and the company remains heavily funded by the Chinese government, there’s also no public, direct evidence that Huawei is using its equipment to spy on network traffic inside the U.S. or any other country. In any case, Huawei can’t prove a negative, so all it can do is allow governments to assess its devices — which has so far found some issues but nothing conclusive to tie it to Chinese espionage actors.

That’s the crux of the argument: nobody thinks Huawei is spying now. To get caught would be too dangerous. But nobody knows that it won’t spy in the future.

The worst case nightmare scenario is that telcos will snap up Huawei’s technology and install its equipment in every nook, cranny and corner of their networks. Why wouldn’t they? The technology is cheap, said to be reliable, and is necessary for the impending 5G expansion. Then years later China exploits a hidden vulnerability that either lets its hackers steal economic secrets from businesses.

At that point, it would be too late. The network operators can’t just rip out their routers and switches. The damage is done.

Telcos need Huawei as much as Huawei needs them. But the North American and European telcos are finding it increasingly difficult to navigate pressures from their governments, which treat them as critical national infrastructure and a constant national security concern.

The reality is that China is no more a national security threat than the U.S. is to China, which has its own burgeoning networking equipment business. Just as much as the U.S. and Canada might not want to use Huawei or ZTE equipment in their networks for fear of a surprise cyberattack ten years down the line, why should China, Russia, or any other “frenemy” state choose HPE or Cisco technologies?

Companies have an option: Is the enemy you know better than the one you don’t?

Ren Zhengfei, founder and chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies Co., attends an interview at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China, on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Ren, the billionaire telecom mogul, broke years of public silence to dismiss U.S. accusations the telecoms giant helps Beijing spy on Western governments and to praise Donald Trump for his tax cuts. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. government has persisted across administrations with its fiery rhetoric over Huawei’s links to the Chinese government, since a House Intelligence Committee report in 2012 pushed for a domestic ban on equipment built by Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese electronics maker, and even warning against using their consumer phones. Noticeably absent from the House’s report was any specific proof of Chinese spying.

Core to the panel’s claim that “a router that turns on in the middle of the night, starts sending back large data packs, and it happens to be sent back to China,” said former congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI). Huawei, which has always denied the claims, has long called for evidence. Only this week, the U.S. said it doesn’t need to show proof, citing the company’s ability to be “leveraged by the Chinese government.”

The report contained claims of bribery and corruption, copyright infringement and more, but there was no smoking gun that proved that the company was spying — only that it could at the request of Beijing.

China’s authoritarian rule notwithstanding, the country says that it doesn’t have a single law that can compel a company to spy on its behalf or put backdoors in its products. Westerners are rightfully skeptical: in China, the government doesn’t need a law to say it can or can’t do something.

Yet ironically, it’s the U.S. and the U.K. — and more recently Australia — that have laws in place that can in fact compel a company to turn over data, or force a company to install backdoors. After the Edward Snowden disclosures that revealed the scope of U.S. surveillance, China retaliated by dropping U.S. technology from its networks and systems. That was no bother for China; it has its own booming tech industry, and just started using its own homegrown equipment instead.

Other countries aren’t so lucky, and more often than not are stuck between buying their tech from the two spying giants.

Western nations would rather trust U.S. technology with its powerful surveillance laws, while the rest of the world either trusts Chinese technology or simply doesn’t care.

Any technology can be a national security risk. It’s less selecting the right gear, and more picking your poison.

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NFL Sunday Ticket games may be coming to Apple’s streaming platform

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As the NFL’s 8-year Sunday Ticket deal with DirecTV nears its end, the football league is looking to Apple as its ideal replacement, according to a new report. Multiple companies are said to be prospective destinations for the League’s Sunday games, including Amazon (which is already home to Thursday Night Football), as well as Disney for ESPN.

The claim comes from sources speaking with The Athletic, which claims that the NFL wants Apple to be the new company behind its Sunday Ticket. The package is set to expire after nearly a decade with DirecTV, the league’s long-term partner. An Apple package may be a bit different than what DirecTV has, as well.

The insiders claim that an NFL Sunday Ticket under Apple may include some notable changes, including the potential for football fans to purchase a standalone game or even purchase all of the out-of-market games for one particular team. A more tailored approach like that would arguably be better for sports fans who may only be interested in select games.

The report cites a source who alleged that “everything is on the table,” but the NFL hasn’t confirmed any of the details and the report claims that nothing has been finalized at this time. It is possible the Sunday Ticket package won’t ultimately go to Apple, which likewise has remained quiet about the rumor.

The NFL is reportedly looking to get another $2 billion per year on top of the existing contract price, which is said to be around $1.5 billion yearly on average for DirecTV. It doesn’t look like AT&T will pen a new deal with the League to keep the Sunday Ticket. Amazon has already scored Thursday Night Football and it remains possible it may get the Sunday Ticket, as well.

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With iPhone 13 in hand, I miss Touch ID more than ever

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I’ve been traveling this past week, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max has been my trusty sidekick. Whether it’s boarding passes, camera duties, messaging, or keeping me occupied with ebooks and music, I’ve found myself staring at the excellent 120Hz ProMotion display a whole lot. Problem is, when the sensors above that screen stare back, they’re not seeing what they want to.

Face unlock – Face ID in Apple-world – has been a side victim of the coronavirus pandemic. Consistently wearing masks (along with regularly washing your hands, and being vaccinated) is one of the CDC’s big recommendations for avoiding COVID-19, and it’s a legal requirement when you’re in airports and on trains.

Having half your face obscured isn’t especially helpful to a system which relies on scanning it in order to unlock your iPhone. And, with how much I’ve been using the iPhone 13 Pro Max this week – and enjoying it, too, particularly the excellent cameras – its a hurdle I’ve been running into hundreds of times a day, if not more.

Apple’s workaround, of course, is a singularly Apple-y way of dealing with half-masked faces: you need to have an iPhone and and Apple Watch. The feature, launched earlier this year as an iOS 14 update, allows you to bypass security on the iPhone just as long as your Apple Watch is on your wrist and unlocked.

Now, leaving aside the fact that clearly not everyone who has an iPhone also has Apple’s smartwatch, this workaround actually held up pretty well. I’ve been using it on an iPhone 12 Pro Max since it was released, and while there were times it simply didn’t actually unlock, or would unlock without my intending it, it did make using iOS while masked more streamlined. Unfortunately, it’s not working any more.

Since switching to iOS 15 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max, I’ve lost the ability to unlock with Apple Watch. Trying to turn the feature on in the iOS settings simply gets me a “can’t create a secure connection with the Apple Watch” message. A quick search online confirms I’m not alone.

It looks to be an iOS 15 issue, not an iPhone 13 one, but since Apple’s latest version comes preloaded and you can’t downgrade it, anybody in the same situation as I am will probably find that distinction little comfort. I’ve tried all the “fixes” and suggestions listed online – rebooting the phone and the watch; updating to the latest software version of each; even unpairing the Apple Watch and then repairing it from scratch – and nothing works.

I’ve been traveling this week, so wearing a mask a whole lot, and it’s been a reminder of just how many times you need to unlock your phone. Even just checking the latest notifications, if you have iOS’ privacy feature which only reveals their content on the lock screen when iOS is unlocked, requires a PIN now. The iPhone 13’s screen notch may be smaller this generation, but that doesn’t really matter when Face ID can’t see enough of you to do its thing.

Meanwhile, I’m looking enviously over at devices like the new iPad mini, and its Touch ID sensor built into the power button. I can understand why Apple shifted away from a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone, and – when unmasked – I’m a big fan of Face ID. I particularly enjoy how it makes logging into apps, and unlocking payments, simple. Honestly, it took a global pandemic to get frustrated by it.

Rumors of a return of Touch ID to the iPhone have given plenty of people – myself included – a glimmer of hope about striking that balance of security and convenience again. Unlock with Apple Watch was generally functional, but still could be clunky in the same way that anything wirelessly-dependent (I’m looking at you, AirDrop) can periodically leave you longing for a physical alternative. Just as even that took its time arriving in iOS, however, it always seemed a fact of reality that if Apple really was intending to return a fingerprint sensor to its phones, that wouldn’t be in time for 2021.

SEE TOO: The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 120Hz ProMotion Display is the real deal

As it stands, for a variety of reasons – not least vaccine holdouts – it looks like we’ll be masked-up well into 2022 and probably beyond. An iPhone 14 with a built-in Touch ID sensor probably will be just as relevant as an iPhone 13 would’ve been with that today. Talk about disheartening.

Security is, of course, one thing you should never compromise on. Tempting as it is to change the settings on my iPhone so that it waits a little longer to unlock, or shows the content of my notifications for anyone who glances at them on the lock screen, I know that’s a foolhardy thing to do. Instead, I’ll wait (semi) patiently for the inevitable iOS update which hopefully fixes iPhone unlock with Apple Watch, and punch in my regular PIN until that arrives.

All the same, I can’t help but wonder whether, as we rush to embrace new technology, being equally quick to leave behind what came before it might be a missed opportunity. I’m not someone who particularly mourns the loss of the headphone jack, but these past few days have certainly left me more sympathetic to those who discovered the tech world changed and, in the process, decided something that was important to them could actually be left behind.

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Peak Design Mobile modular magnetic accessory line launches in time for iPhone 13

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Peak Design released their full mobile ecosystem of magnetic and protective accessories today, coordinated with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 13. This collection was part of a Kickstarter back in December of 2020 and rolled out for general availability for the first time today. The mobile line starts with the “Everyday Case”, available for iPhone 11, 12, 13, and Samsung Galaxy S21.

Peak Design has a brand for name for the magnetic system they use with their smartphone case and accessories: SlimLink. SlimLink is a ceramic zirconia insert surrounded by custom tuned magnets that are inserted into each Peak Design Everyday Case.

This SlimLink system does not prohibit Qi standard wireless charging – so users will not need to remove their case in order to use a wireless charging pad. The Everyday Case is thin enough that wireless charging will work, and thick enough that it’ll protect a smartphone from harm.

Included in the launch collection of accessories are the Everyday Case, the Everyday Loop Case, and a wide variety of connecting peripherals. There is also a Universal Adapter that can be attached to third-party phone cases.

In the Peak Design Mobile collection at launch, there is a Car Mount, Motorocycle Bar Mount, Motorcycle Stem Mount, Out Front Bike Mount, Universal Bar Mount, and a Wall Mount. You’ll also find a Creator Kit, Mobile Tripod, Mobile Wallet, and a Wireless Charging Stand, right out the gate.

Take a peek at our previous features with Peak Design and let us know if you’re planning on attaching this series of accessories to your brand new device. We’ll be back with reviews of the lot once we get up close and personal with the cases and the accessories of all sorts!

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