Tag Archives: Huawei

FCC Gets The Huawei Replacement Bill – 3x What They Expected

At the tail end of the Trump administration, Congress passed a bill to get telecom carriers to remove Huawei network equipment from their networks as a national security issue – which it may well be.

Congress allocated a billion plus dollars to help small telecom providers with the costs of doing that.

The FCC thought that it would cost about $1.9 billion even though Congress didn’t allocate that much money.

While the goal was replace the Chinese equipment with American made equipment, the reality is that there are no American companies that make this kind of equipment, so the equipment that replaces the Chinese made stuff will come from Sweden, France and other countries, but not likely from the United States.

The FCC allocated $1.9 billion to fix the problem. Then the bill came in.

Small carriers and schools had from November 2021 to January 2022 to fill out the paperwork to get FCC help.

The bill, at this point, is over $5 billion.

While the FCC has not reviewed or approved those requests, lets say that they pare it down to 3 or 4 billion dollars. It is now up to Congress to address the gap.

It is not clear how the FCC will allocate the money that Congress gave it and what the carriers that don’t get money will do to comply with the law (likely one thing that they will do is sue the government, saying the government told them to do something and the government said they would pay for it and now they won’t).

Some carriers will tell the government to sue them, which could take a decade to resolve with appeals. In the mean time, if Congress really thinks this is a national security problem, it will continue to be a problem all that time.

Likely what will also happen, if carriers have to replace this equipment at their own expense, at least in the short term, is that rollout of new services and new features for these small and rural carriers, will just grind to a halt for years until they can pay off this ‘rip and replace’ bill.

What this translates to is an increase in the digital divide.

One of the other groups that can also get assistance in replacing this equipment is schools. Schools never hard extra money and now, if they have to replace this equipment on their own, it will mean that the poorer school districts will fall farther behind from the richer districts in terms of how they teach. This will mean that the kids in these poor districts will be at an even bigger disadvantage than they were before compared to their richer neighbors when they apply for college or join the workforce.

I think Congress wanted to do the right thing back in 2019, but I don’t think they understood the scope of the problem.

We will see what Congress does. Credit: The Register here and here

Security News for the Week Ending October 2, 2020

False Claims Act Means Big Fines

I had heard about the Department of Justice going after companies for misrepresenting things in federal contracts. I remember that Cisco paid a fine of less than $10 million, so I didn’t think it really meant much. But in a press release, the DoJ says that they recovered over $3 BILLION last year. That includes health care fraud, procurement fraud and other fraud. But 2019 was not an anomaly. In 2018 they recovered $2.8 billion; in 2017 they recovered $3.5 billion and in 2016, it was $4.9 billion. That is a lot of money, so if you are thinking about misrepresenting things in a government contract, you might want to reconsider. Read the details here.

911 Service in Multiple States Goes Down

Issues were reported by police departments in counties across Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Initially, it was thought that it was related to an outage at Microsoft at the same time. Many of the 911 dispatch centers were able to recover in less than an hour, but that turns out not to be the case; see yesterday’s blog post. Credit: ZDNet

DoJ Wins Case Against Snowden to Seize His Money

This has nothing to do with whether he is guilty of whatever. This is a simple contract dispute. If you go to work for the government and get a security clearance, you agree to let the government clear certain publications and speeches you make to make sure that you are not disclosing classified information. The Supremes have said in the past that the government can seize the proceeds from these illegal speeches and publications. In Snowden’s case, that is about $5 million. It is not clear that Snowden expected to keep the money; he knew the rules. Of course, if the money is in Russia with Edward, well, good luck. Credit: The Register

Still the Best Reason NOT to Buy Huawei Equipment

The White House has claimed that Chinese telecom provider Huawei is a national security risk – a tool of the Chinese government. That may be, I don’t know. But the Brits have been much more honest and open about things. The Brits have been evaluating Huawei’s software and they say that it is as secure against intruders as a screen door. Huawei says that these bugs prove that they are being honest. Not sure about that. Maybe they mean that they are too stupid to design backdoors for the Chinese government. Credit: The Register

Samsung has a Deal for You

Samsung has an interesting deal. They say to their advertisers that they will display an ad to an owner of one of their TVs, every time it is turned on and there is nothing the owner can do about it. They say this is about 400 times a month per TV. They use something called Automatic Content Recognition to understand whether you watch sports or movies (and what kind) or whatever and tune the ads to that. They do not tell you before you buy the TV that you are agreeing to that. Of course, if you have a dumb TV, that is not a problem, but that is not the direction the planet is going in. Perhaps buy a different brand. Credit: The Register

Universal Health Services Hit By Ransomware – 250 Hospitals Affected

UHS, which runs hundreds of hospitals and clinics, including behavioral health and addiction care and which has concentrations of facilities in California, Texas, Nevada and Florida has taken its systems offline. While they have not said what is going on, the scuttlebutt is that is the Ryuk strain of ransomware. Just what a hospital needs right now. They have shifted to paper based processes, although they say their electronic medical record system was not affected (it may just be offline right now but not encrypted). Utter chaos is probably rampant. Lawsuits to follow if people die. Credit: Security Week

Finally, Intelligent Explanation of Why Using Huawei 5G is Dangerous

President Trump has been trying to get other countries to follow his thoughts on punishing China by banning Huawei from participating in their 5G networks with almost no one following his wishes.

The UK, however, is using a different approach.

Tobias Ellwood, a member of the UK Parliament and the Chairman of the Defence Committee says this:

First, Russia and China are likely to work in partnership over the next decade with China telling Russia where the holes are and Russia exploiting them. This is not a complete surprise, but interesting.

The more important issue is this.

Ellwood says that Huawei has, and I quote, pisspoor software development practices.

He went on to wonder why Huawei is so shoddy in their cybercecurity engineering. He suggested out loud that maybe they just don’t care about it and it is not important to them. Further, he went on to ponder that maybe it is related to the fact that their price point is so low.

If you believe Ellwood and it seems almost logical, using Huawei equipment in our 5G network is bad not because Huawei is in bed with the Chinese government – they probably are, but then again, AT&T was in bed with the US spy agencies until that was exposed by Edward Snowden, so that is not exactly news. Companies are usually required to cooperate with the governments in the countries that they are located in and do business in.

Rather, using Huawei is a bad idea because they write crappy software – much like we did TWENTY YEARS AGO. We have learned because our market demanded it. Ellwood says that they just don’t care. They will care, however, if people stop buying their stuff.

With Huawei, many governments are buying their equipment because it is cheap, not because it is good.

When it comes to 5G, that might not be a really bright idea.

After all, if their software is as secure as a screen door on a submarine, then attacks from China are just one country we need to worry about.

Every country’s intelligence agency (and hackers too) will try to attack every other country’s networks. The smart countries will work to secure their networks. We know that our so-called friends like Korea, France and Israel, among others, all spy on us.

THIS is a much better reason not to use Huawei equipment.

What may be the case – just speculation – is the the NSA has been listening in on Huawei networks around the world but can’t really say that, so they have to sort of make up a reason not to use it.

Whatever the rest of the story is, it seems that not using Huawei is in each country’s own best interest.

Contemplate that. Credit: The Register

Security News for the Week Ending March 13, 2020

9 Years of AMD Processors Vulnerable to 2 New Side-Channel Attacks

AMD processors from as early as 2011 to 2019 carry previously undisclosed vulnerabilities that open them to two new different side-channel attacks, according to a freshly published research.

Known as “Take A Way,” the new potential attack vectors leverage the L1 data (L1D) cache way predictor in AMD’s Bulldozer micro-architecture to leak sensitive data from the processors and compromise the security by recovering the secret key used during encryption. Source: The Hacker News

And… AMD is Not Alone This Week  – Intel has Unpatchable Flaw

And the “chip wars” continue.

All Intel processors released in the past 5 years contain an unpatchable vulnerability that could allow hackers to compromise almost every hardware-enabled security technology that are otherwise designed to shield sensitive data of users even when a system gets compromised.

The flaw, if exploited (only theoretical this week) would allow hackers to extract the root encryption key in the Intel Mangement Engine – which is the same for all chips in a particular processor family.  That potentially would nullify all DRM and all whole disk encryption, among other things.  Source: The Hacker News

President Signs Bill To Help Rural Telecom Carriers Replace Chinese Equipment

The President signed the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act this week.  The bill mandates that US telecom carriers rip and replace any “suspect foreign network equipment”.  It requires the FCC to set up a compensation fund to help rural telecom carriers do this;  the bigger carriers are on their own – which will likely be reflected in your bill as a fee or surcharge.

Carriers have to provide a list of equipment and estimated costs to replace it by April 22.  Sometime after that, we will have a better estimate of the cost.

For some reason which is not clear to me, the bill will not cover the cost of replacing equipment purchased after August 14, 2018.  It appears that telcos do not need to replace new Chinese equipment.

The requests and status of replacement activities will be posted on the FCC’s website.

The law authorizes the FCC to spend $1 billion in this year’s budget to do this.

The bill also allows companies that won spectrum bids in the last auction to abandon their builds and get their money back for the spectrum if they determine that they can’t build out what they promised without using suspect gear.

It would also appear that if the telco buys or has bought Chinese gear without a government subsidy, they can continue to use it.  Source: Engadget

Microsoft Says: 99.9% of Compromised Accounts did NOT use Multi-Factor Authentication

Microsoft tracks 30 billion login events every day.

They say that roughly 0.5% of all accounts get compromised every month.  That translated to around 1.2 million accounts compromised in January.

THEY ALSO SAY THAT AROUND 99% OF ALL ATTACKS TARGET LEGACY PROTOCOLS, SO, IF THOSE PROTOCOLS CAN BE DISABLED AND MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION IS TURNED ON, SUCCESSFUL ATTACKS GO TO NEARLY ZERO.

THEY ALSO SAY THAT MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION BLOCKS 99.9% OF ALL ATTACKS.  Source: ZDNet

Crypto Backdoors and Huawei

Note: If you didn’t know that I am against crypto backdoors before, let me just tell you up front, because that fact will be clear by the end.

The world works in the most mysterious ways.

The FBI has been trying to get phone makers (Apple especially) to install crypto backdoors into iPhones for them for years. What they call lawful access.

The scientists say that there is no way to do this in a way that would be secure. A way where only the good guys can access your stuff and the bad guys cannot.

Sometimes the universe demonstrates things in a way that scientists can’t.

The U.S. has been saying for a long time that the Chinese company Huawei – the world leader in 5G cellular technology – is bad and that they are closely connected to the Chinese military. All of this is likely true.

What they haven’t said is why and they are not really telling the whole truth now – likely because the whole truth is classified. They probably don’t want the Chinese to know what our spies know.

Huawei cell hardware has a crypto backdoor. Not necessarily because they wanted to put it in but more likely because cell providers in many countries are required to provide a backdoor. If Huawei didn’t build one in, they couldn’t sell their hardware.

What has come out now is that there is a concern that Huawei – AKA the Chinese government or Chinese military – may be able to use – or ABUSE that backdoor.

Of course they claim that they would NEVER do that. You believe them, don’t you?

While the U.S. isn’t publicly saying this, likely because some CIA source told them or something like that and as a result, it is considered highly classified. If the Chinese know what we know, they can probably figure out how we got it and from there, figure out who told us. At that point, the next step is a bullet in the head.

So it appears that this backdoor that the FBI so desperately wants is the reason while Huawei is such a threat. Bottom line, if we insert a backdoor into crypto, even for the best reasons, the bad guys will learn about it and figure out how to exploit it. Then we have the Huawei situation all over again.

Since the U.S. is pushing really, really hard to stop carriers from using Huawei hardware, probably with good reason – and we now know why – what is the impact on 5G rollout in the US?

For the large carriers in the core of major metropolitan cities – not much.

For smaller carriers and for the big carriers outside the high profile “gee, we better have 5G coverage here” locations, it means that the rollout of 5G in the U.S. will probably be much slower than would have been otherwise.

Given that almost no one has a 5G capable phone right now, that probably doesn’t matter much – right now.

But there is another use that seems to be garnering some attention and that is Internet of Things. If some IoT devices are dependent on 5G (like your self-driving car) and if the buyer or maker of the device ASSUMES that 5G coverage will be available, well, that is a problem (like the self-driving feature doesn’t work). Hopefully, manufacturers who assume people will have 5G will design their systems to fail safely (like shutting their device off if it can’t get 5G), but even that won’t make people happy.

Looking at 5G coverage today, here is a map from Verizon’s website for Denver. Notice it says AVAILABLE OUTDOORS. Likely, this is because the signal won’t penetrate walls, which means, that we all need to move into tents outside. The tan highlight says that 5G is available in PARTS of these neighborhoods. Granted they will build out more and likely in the next few years, more of downtown Denver will have coverage, but that doesn’t include anything outside downtown and it doesn’t cover indoors. For that you will need to buy a 5G cell simulator and have enough extra Internet bandwidth on your Internet connection to give you 5G speeds. You want gigabit 5G – you better have an extra gigabit of Internet bandwidth on your service that you are not using. And, you better hope that you carrier doesn’t have bandwidth caps.

Source: Ars Technica

Security News for the Week Ending January 31, 2020

UK Proposes Weak Security Law for IoT Devices; Calls it Strong

The UK is proposing a law similiar to California’s existing IoT law and calls it strong security.  What makes it strong is that they call it strong, maybe?

The bill requires that default passwords on IoT devices be unique (likely part of the serial number) and not resettable to a single default password.  It also requires the manufacturer to provide a public point of contact for security researchers to report bugs and finally it requires manufacturers to tell consumers the minimum length of time they will provide security updates.

It does not require that they fix reported bugs at all and it doesn’t say how over the manufacturer will provide security updates.  It also doesn’t make manufacturers liable for the damage their bugs do.

All in all, it is a pretty weak bill and even so, it has not been enacted yet.  Source: The UK Gov web site.

 

Business Email Compromise victim sues MSP for Professional Negligence

A Business Email Compromise victim who paid fake invoices to the tune of $1.7 million to businesses in Hong Kong and Cambodia is suing it’s managed service provider (MSP) for messing up.  The fake invoices came from the business owner’s hacked email account which the MSP was supposed to protect.  Source: Channel Futures

 

Travelex Says They Are Back Online

After a MONTH of downtime, Travelex says they are now back online.  They are still saying that it won’t impact their 2019 or 2020 financials.  Sources say that part of the losses will be covered by insurance.  This calls out the importance of having a tested incident response, disaster recovery and business continuity program – and the importance of having cyber insurance.  Source: Reuters

 

Apple Dropped Plans to Encrypt Cloud Backup After FBI Complained

Apple dropped plans to fully encrypt iCloud backups after the FBI told them that it would harm investigations according to multiple sources.  They often turn over iCloud backups to help police investigate crimes.

While Apple publicly says it protects your privacy and in many ways they do, sometimes they make business decisions that they would prefer their customers not  know about.  Source: Reuters

 

Extradition Hearing for Huawei’s CFO has Begun in Canada

The extradition hearings for Huawei’s CFO and daughter of its founder, Meng Wanzhou, have begun in Canada.

The U.S. says that she and her company violated the U.S. ban on selling to Iran.  China says it is a political stunt.

Currently, she is free on bail and living in one of the mansions she owns in Vancouver.  If she gets extradited to the U.S. her accommodations will not be as comfortable.

On the other hand, President Trump has indicated that all things with China are bargaining chips.  Stay tuned;  it is a long journey.  Source: The L.A. Times