The past illuminates the present. This bombshell of a story dropped by The Washington Post certainly explains a lot about America’s current war against Chinese 5G supplier Huawei.
For more than half a century after the second world war, the Swiss company Crypto, whose products the governments of more than 100 countries have relied on to send secure encrypted messages, was secretly owned and operated by the CIA and its West German intelligence counterpart, the BND.
This has enabled American intelligence to read the top secrets of friends and foes alike, and to share them with other members of the so-called Five Eyes, the intelligence services of four other English-speaking countries.
But given the close working relationship with West German intelligence, maybe it should have been called the Six Eyes, despite the language differences.
Washington has kept insinuating that Huawei poses a security risk to all companies and governments that use its 5G infrastructures. Yet, it has never provided actual evidence despite having searched high and low for it, including illegally hacking into Huawei’s mainframes at its Shenzhen headquarters.
What Americans are afraid of, or paranoid about, is that the 5G pioneer will be to Chinese intelligence what Crypto was to the CIA. It takes one to know one.
As George Yeo, former minister of foreign affairs for Singapore, said in a recent speech, “a key reason for the US campaign against Huawei is the fear that China may not only develop a similar surveillance capability but Chinese equipment and Chinese systems will make it harder for the US to maintain the same surveillance reach”.
Americans are afraid that Huawei is dirty. But as Yeo explains, it’s just as bad for US intelligence if it is clean: it won’t have flaws and back-door vulnerabilities so readily available to exploit.
And of course, thanks to Edward Snowden, we know that other US agencies such as the FBI and National Security Agency have exploited such back doors with large US tech companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and others.
Yeo makes a third important point: “The only safe assumption is that all systems expose us to external intelligence penetration. We have to find ways to protect ourselves and accept that nothing is foolproof.”
If all systems are penetrable, the only answer is to be extra vigilant. Picking on one company or one country just distracts you from being alert to threats from elsewhere.
By Alex Lo
Source: South China Morning Post