Cyber-Security

US govt 'told Germany that Chinese spies bug' Huawei 5G kit. It also told the world Iraq had WMDs ready to deploy…

Telecoms giant denies everything, Germans put in order anyway

America warned Germany Huawei’s cheap’n’cheerful 5G gear was effectively bugged by Beijing’s spies and leaking secrets to agents, it is claimed. The US government’s evidence of this alleged espionage has not been shared publicly, we note.

According to a report published Wednesday by Handelsblatt, a German business and policy publication, the German Federal Government received intelligence from the US at the end of 2019 “that Huawei has been proven to work with China’s security agencies.”

Huawei, in a statement to The Register, rejected that claim.

“Huawei Technologies has never and will never do anything that threatens or compromises the security of its customers’ networks and data,” a company spokesperson said. “If the report in the Handelsblatt ‘Smoking gun: Federal Government has evidence against Huawei’ suggests this, we strongly reject it.

“The report alleges that evidence to this effect was submitted by the US government at the end of December. According to recent public statements high ranking representatives of the German government haven’t changed their position on Huawei since then. The article is repeating unfounded allegations without presenting any evidence.”

Communism and Uncle Sam

It’s been one day since Blighty OK’d Huawei for parts of 5G – and US politicians haven’t overreacted at all. Wait, what? Surveillance state commies?

READ MORE

Telecom networks around the world are in the midst of deploying 5G networking technology, which promises faster, more responsive mobile connections. With only a limited number of potential suppliers – Ericsson, Cisco, Nokia, and Samsung are the other main infrastructure providers – governments have to weigh whether they can trust that Chinese authorities won’t force Huawei to compromise its kit. (America would never pull that kind of stunt, right?)

Huawei, which is reportedly subsidized by the Chinese government (a claim Huawei rejects), was founded and is run by Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in the Chinese military.

It has become embroiled in the contentious US-China trade negotiations undertaken by the Trump administration and has also become a convenient focus for longstanding US concerns about Chinese espionage.

The manufacturing giant last year was placed on the US Commerce Department’s Entity List, which prevents American organizations from doing business with Huawei (though a few exceptions have since been introduced). And the US wants to extradite Huawei finance chief Meng Wanzhou to face fraud charges.

“Huawei cannot be trusted to tell the truth or protect the interests of others, and it should not be trusted with the vital security of 5G networks,” the US State Department explains in document about 5G security titled “Huawei: Myth vs. Fact.”

Despite such assertions, the UK recently decided to allow “high-risk vendors,” namely Huawei, to participate in its 5G network buildout, with some limitations. The EU has also come to a similar conclusion. ®

Sponsored: Detecting cyber attacks as a small to medium business

Samsung: You see, what we did was we took the Galaxy Tab S6, right? Then we slapped some 5G on it

Incredible fondleslab world first

Samsung has lifted the lid on the Galaxy Tab S6 5G – a revamp of last year’s model with a built-in 5G radio. Although this is a fairly modest upgrade, it is the world’s first 5G tablet.

In terms of specs, almost nothing has changed from the original model, which came in Wi-Fi and LTE versions. The sole point of differentiation is that it includes Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 Modem.

The Tab S6 comes with accessories that cater to creatives and professionals alike, such as a S-Pen stylus and various keyboard cases. It also includes DeX, which is a limited desktop environment that allows punters to connect their tablet to an external monitor and mouse.

Samsung will officially release the Galaxy Tab S6 5G in Korea at the end of the month, where it’ll retail at ₩999,000 – or roughly £650. It’ll come with just one configuration, touting 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The other features – including the Snapdragon 855 processor and 10.5-inch OLED screen – will remain the same.

Birds flying across meadow in autumn sunrise

Samsung leads 5G early birds after shipping 6.7m phones to snatch over half of the market

READ MORE

For the most part, tablet computing has fallen by the wayside in recent years – growth has been hard for most major vendors to sustain. The biggest problem for consumers has been the lack of compelling reasons to upgrade, and for businesses, the form factor makes it hard to do any actual work.

There is the relatively pricey iPad Pro but why not opt for a decent spec laptop instead?

Analyst IDC observed a modest spike in global tablet sales during Q3 of ’19, with much of that growth attributed to the iPad. Apple’s success is arguably thanks to its iPadOS and the range of slabs its stocks.

These signs of life could mean there is some hope for Samsung, and a 5G-enabled version of its flagship tablet will appeal to some.

So far there’s no word on a global release, but we’ve asked Samsung for more details. ®

Sponsored: Detecting cyber attacks as a small to medium business

An Apple a day might not keep the doctor away: iGiant's China stores face closures, deep cleans, staff temperature checks amid virus outbreak

Cook quizzed on supply chains, widens revenue guidance for second quarter

Apple is in talks with suppliers located in Wuhan, China, to “mitigate” any disruption to production caused by the coronavirus outbreak, said CEO Tim Cook.

In a conference call on Tuesday with Wall Street analysts to discuss the iGiant’s Q1 financial figures, the head honcho was asked what Apple’s strategy is with regard to dual sourcing production and manufacturing in general, given the deadly spread of the bio-nasty.

Cook said, amid travel bans and city lockdowns in the Middle Kingdom to tackle the outbreak, Apple is “working very closely with our team and our partners in the affected areas, and we have limited travel to business critical situations as of last week. The situation is emerging and we’re still gathering lots of data points and monitoring it very closely.”

Due to this uncertainty, Apple widened its revenue guidance for its second quarter of fiscal 2020, which ends in March, to somewhere between $63bn and $67bn, forewarning investors and staving off any possible lawsuits. Like most Western tech giants, Apple outsources production of its shiny gear to a bunch of companies in China, and assembles some Mac stuff in the US and Ireland.

The death toll of coronavirus 2019-nCoV has risen above 100 in China, and infections have more than doubled to 6,500, according to Chinese state media. Infection has spread across the Middle Kingdom, and on to at least 16 countries globally.

The Chinese government has put travel restrictions in place, locking down the city of Wuhan, the capital and manufacturing hub of China’s Hubei province. British Airways has paused all flights to China, and United in the US is scaling back its service.

Defcon China bulletin

Coronavirus claims new victim: ‘DEF CON cancelled’ joke cancelled after DEF CON China actually cancelled

READ MORE

Cook said “some suppliers” in Wuhan are “our ultimate source, and obviously we are working on mitigation plan to make up any expected production loss. We factored best thinking and the guidance that we’ve provided you.”

As for suppliers operating outside of Wuhan, “the impact is less clear at this time,” he added. “The reopening of those factories after Chinese New Year has been moved from the end of this month to February 10, depending upon the supplier location.”

So it is possible shortages will show up for some Apple kit made by those manufacturing sites.

As for Apple’s shops in China, Cook said it has closed one store temporarily, and a number of channel “partners” have also shuttered for the time being. Apple is not alone, we note: Google, for instance, is also temporarily closing its China offices for the time being.

“Many of the [Apple] stores that remain open have also reduced operating hours,” Cook said.

“We’re taking additional precautions and frequently deep cleaning our stores as well as conducting temperature checks for employees. While our sales within the Wuhan area itself are small, retail traffic has also been impacted outside of this area, across the country, in the last few days. And again, we have attempted to account for this in our guidance.”

Cook said his thoughts are with the people caught up in the affected regions, and Apple has apparently donated to groups battling to contain the virus.

In terms of tech-sector impact, the bio-nasty has so far forced Huawei to postpone its developer conference in Shenzhen, the same thing happening to DEF CON China, and the stock market was jittery amid supply-chain uncertainties, among other setbacks. ®

Sponsored: Detecting cyber attacks as a small to medium business

It's been one day since Blighty OK'd Huawei for parts of 5G – and US politicians haven't overreacted at all. Wait, what? Surveillance state commies?

You’ve fscked us, says Uncle Sam

Yesterday it was decided that certain “high-risk” vendors, cough, cough, Huawei, will be permitted to contribute components towards the UK’s 5G network in a limited way.

The move provided great relief to Huawei, and caused some dismay in the US.

Perhaps the strongest words came from junior Republican senator for Nebraska Ben Sasse. In a statement to the conservative Washington Examiner, he said Blighty’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s decision had made the UK’s special relationship with the US “less special” and accused the British government of embracing the “surveillance state commies” at Huawei.

EE 5G at St Paul's

UK to Chinese telecoms giant: From 5G in Tiree to the Isles of Ebony, carry me on the waves… Sail Huawei, sail Huawei, sail Huawei

READ MORE

Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz, who was runner-up in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, was similarly damning. He accused Brit politicians of endangering the “national security of Britain, as well as [the] US and allies, for generations to come”.

In a tweet, senator and fellow 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL), was milder. He accused the UK of being “penny wise, pound foolish”.

Arguably the most revealing condemnation came from former House speaker and Republican party grandee Newt Gingrich. He described yesterday’s decision as a “major defeat for the United Statees [sic]” and issued calls for government intervention to create an alternative to Huawei’s 5G hardware that would compete with the Chinese government on cost.

“Congress should pass a bill calling for an all out United States effort to develop better technology at lower cost to defeat Huawei on 5G worldwide by simply outcompeting them and driving them out of markets,” he added.

One of the major factors that have attracted UK telcos to Huawei is the fact that it dramatically undercuts competing products from rivals such as Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.

“If the United States offers better logistics supply chain, better technology and lower costs virtually the entire world outside China would shift away from Huawei,” tweeted Gingrich.

At the time of writing, Congress is yet to pass a law earmarking funding for new 5G infrastructure R&D. Even if it did, any new products would take years to come to fruition and would require vast sums of money.

For context, Huawei spent $15.3bn on R&D in 2018 alone, surpassing the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Intel, according to data from Bloomberg. The only companies that spent more were Amazon, Alphabet and Samsung.

The chorus of condemnation from Republican lawmakers is loud indeed, and it’s yet unclear whether this will translate into any more concrete actions against the UK, either through diplomatic means, or via the exertion of economic pressure. To get a sense of the vibe on Capitol Hill, The Register spoke to Kathryn Waldron, resident fellow of national security and cybersecurity at R-Street, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington DC.

“UK policymakers should acknowledge this decision will have significant global repercussions. The US has strongly pressured the UK to unite together against Huawei, and thereby against China. The UK’s decision to allow Huawei to remain in their supply chain represents a fracture in the West’s approach to the larger issue of China, a fracture China will no doubt encourage through using economic pressure on European countries,” she said.

Waldron noted the Huawei issue is an ongoing concern for the current US administration, which has consistently lobbied Downing Street to take drastic action against the Chinese firm, culminating in a direct call between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump last Friday. The recent move will therefore be seen as nothing short of a snub.

vestager_648

EU outlines 5G rules: You don’t have to keep ‘risky’ vendors completely Huawei

READ MORE

“This public rejection of the American approach to handling Huawei will likely exacerbate tensions in US-UK relations. In response to the UK’s decision, American senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) tweeted that the UK’s stance on Huawei could complicate not just a US-UK free trade deal but also intelligence-sharing programs,” Waldron explained.

The timing of this move leaves the UK in somewhat of a precarious position. On Friday, it will leave the European Union after years of negotiation and hand-wringing. Although it’ll enter a transition period, where it’ll effectively remain in the customs union and single market, Britain will be pushed to roll over existing trade deals, as well as forge new ones.

An Anglo-American trade deal is a major priority of the current Conservative-majority government. However, Waldron notes that the move to permit Huawei’s 5G gear – even in the most limited of capacities – could complicate negotiations.

“I wouldn’t rule out some sort of punitive action in the form of delaying trade negotiations,” Waldron said. “The current administration has repeatedly embraced using economic tools such as tariffs or trade deals as political signals to indicate their displeasure.” ®

Sponsored: Detecting cyber attacks as a small to medium business

What are those Windows 10 PCs running? Several flavours from 2019, by the looks of things

Microsoft tries its best to forget 2018’s sh!tshow as Surface Go finds its feet

AdDuplex’s first set of figures for 2020 show that just over two-thirds of Windows 10 PCs are running 2019 software builds.

The last report from the ad platform (based on a survey of around 90,000 PCs running apps that sport the company’s SDK) in October had 2018 editions of Windows 10 still accounting for a whopping 38.6 per cent.

That figure has now dropped to 27.6 per cent as of January 2020 with Microsoft’s April 2018 Update accounting for 5.6 per cent of computers worldwide and the infamous October 2018 Update (aka 1809) lingering on the rest.

The end of life for 1803 had accelerated moves to the May 2019 Update (19H1) last year, which had accounted for 56.6 per cent of PCs and has now dropped to 53.4 per cent of machines. Still with us? Good.

This drop can be partially attributed to the arrival of its successor, the November 2019 Update, which is now on 15.2 per cent of PCs (mainly at the expense of 1803 by the looks of things).

The impending end of support for 1809 and the arrival of the November 2019 Update (19H2) for those hitting that jump button means that 15.2 per cent will grow over the coming months. Microsoft is also cautiously pushing the update out to PCs running versions of Windows 10 that are either unsupported, or soon to be.

It all points to a status quo where no one version of Windows 10 will dominate, unlike in the halcyon days of the April 2018 Update upgrade-o-gun. Instead, the cautious approach means that around three versions will enjoy substantial proportions of the userbase.

A pain, perhaps, for developers. For users, less so.

The figures also show a rise for the diminutive Surface Go tablet from fifth to third place in terms of Surface device share, putting the underpowered hardware neck and neck with 2017’s Surface Pro. The Surface Pro X languishes at the back of the pack, ahead of only the eye-wateringly expensive Surface Studio range.

It is early days for the Surface Pro X. However, the Surface Pro 7 and Laptop 3, launched at the same time, enjoy a comfortable lead on their Arm-powered sibling. The Pro X made it to market a little later, which could account for its current low showing.

That, or users are staying away in droves. ®

Sponsored: Detecting cyber attacks as a small to medium business

EU outlines 5G rules: You don't have to keep 'risky' vendors completely Huawei

Just keep ’em out the core and keep supply chains diverse, ja?

It’s not just the UK government that’s wrestling with the decision to permit Huawei’s gear on the 5G network. Across Europe, a similar debate has raged. Can Huawei, which many in intelligence circles believe to be inextricably linked to the Chinese government, be trusted to power the next generation of mobile telephony and data? Today, we got our answer: kinda.

Short of a full ban, the European Commission has agreed to permit Huawei’s equipment on the national EU networks, although says it will impose “strict” rules. These strongly mirror those proposed by the UK’s comms-regulating ministry – DCMS – yesterday.

What the EU is calling its “Toolbox for 5G Security” (PDF) asks national regulators to impose strict governance standards. It urges national bodies to vet the risk profiles of specific 5G vendors, and limit those deemed risky from the core elements of national networks. It also recommends that individual providers limit their exposure to any one vendor, by having a multi-vendor approach.

EE 5G at St Paul's

UK to Chinese telecoms giant: From 5G in Tiree to the Isles of Ebony, carry me on the waves… Sail Huawei, sail Huawei, sail Huawei

READ MORE

So far, the four companies offering 5G infrastructure are Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung.

Margrethe Vestager, exec veep for a Europe fit for the digital age, emitted a supportive quote: “5G will be a ground-breaking technology but it cannot come at the expense of the security of our internal market. The toolbox is an important step in what must be a continuous effort in the EU’s collective work to better protect our critical infrastructures.”

The European Commission urges all remaining 27 member states to implement the rules outlined by April 30, 2020, and prepare a joint report that details how they’ve implemented them by June 30, 2020.

In recent months, the EU has come under pressure from the American government to take action against Huawei, which Trump’s administration perceives to be a significant national security threat. It argues that allowing the Chinese firm to build the infrastructure surrounding 5G would provide Beijing an opportunity to conduct surveillance and intelligence gathering against its closest geopolitical allies.

Huawei has repeatedly denied allegations that it would spy on customers and users overseas at the behest of the Chinese government.

Huawei also has an arrangement with the UK government to allow officials from the NCSC-founded Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) Oversight Board to audit its code. While the HCSEC hasn’t uncovered any smoking guns proving the existence of backdoors in Huawei’s kit, it has raised concerns about the firm’s “basic engineering competence and cyber security hygiene” – describing “serious and systematic defects”.

The GSMA, a mobile industry lobby group, notes that replacing kit from Chinese firms would add €55bn to the cost of building 5G networks – an already expensive process, considering the cost of acquiring rights to spectrum bandwidth. The analysis also adds that it would delay the technology by 18 months.

Today’s announcement comes shortly after the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) published guidelines for Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network, albeit in a limited manner. That decision came in the face of similarly intense lobbying from the US government, which climaxed with US prez Donald Trump addressing the issue directly with Boris Johnson on a phone call last Friday. ®

Sponsored: Detecting cyber attacks as a small to medium business