Washington Can’t Quite Figure Out Cybersecurity

In what is likely no surprise to anyone who watches Washington and especially this administration, there seems to be a bit of confusion regarding cyber security policy.  Is it any wonder, given that, that U.S. businesses are equally confused?

Case in point – ZTE.

ZTE is a Chinese electronics manufacturer with “close ties” to the communist Chinese government.  We should assume that is a covert way of saying that the government controls them.

The U.S. intelligence community, which this administration seems to ignore when convenient, has been saying that there is significant risk in using ZTE phones and electronics.  In fact, the head of the FBI told Americans when testifying before Congress earlier this year to steer clear of ZTE devices because of the risk.

Last month the DoD stopped selling ZTE phones at military base exchanges.

The FCC has taken steps to ban the use of federal funds to buy ZTE equipment.

And most recently, the Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from exporting chips to ZTE.

Not surprisingly, ZTE is, fundamentally, out of business.

In a slightly surprising move, especially in light of President Trump’s rhetoric about protecting American jobs and American technology, the President Tweeted on Sunday that he wants the Commerce Department to relax the ban on a company that steals U.S. technology, likely spies on Americans, kills U.S. jobs and violates the embargo on sales to North Korea.  Trump’s reasoning?

President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Republican Senator Rubio from Florida Tweeted:

Problem with ZTE isn’t jobs & trade, it’s national security & espionage. Any telecomm firm in can be forced to act as tool of Chinese espionage without any court order or any other review process. We are crazy to allow them to operate in U.S. without tighter restrictions 

He was far from alone.

What will ultimately happen is unknown, but it seems like it will be very favorable to the Chinese and a really bad deal for the U.S.  Similar to the President’s complaint about the Iran deal.  But, when it comes to politics, the rules are very strange.

The Washington swamp is at it’s normal configuration.

OK, given this, what should you do?

My recommendation is that even though ZTE devices are cheap (because the Communist Chinese government subsidizes them), stay away from them.  There are plenty of lower priced devices from other countries that function quite well.  Probably not as cheap as ZTE, but if you are concerned about American jobs, American technology and American information, don’t do it.  Do not reward the Communist Chinese government.

In fact, the smart money would say to avoid all Communist Chinese electronics – there is just no way of knowing if those devices are spying on you and the evidence is that they are.

But, you say, what do I have that they might want?  The answer to that is that, like the NSA, they never vacuumed up any data that they didn’t like.  Whether it is to look for patterns, to gain intelligence to use against you later or for other reasons unknown, they just do it.  The difference is that the NSA is most likely working for our side.

Information for this post came from The Washington Post.

 

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