telecom security and technonationalism

by Sebastian Benthall

EDIT: This excellent article by Farhad Manjoo has changed my mind or at least my attitude about this issue. Except for the last paragraph, which I believe is a convergent truth.

Reading this report about the U.S. blocking Huawei telecom components in government networks is a bit chilling.

The U.S. invests a lot of money into research of anti-censorship technology that would, among other things, disrupt the autocratic control China maintains over its own network infrastructure.

So from the perspective of the military, telecommunications technology is a battlefield.

I think rightly so. The opacity and centrality of telecommunications and the difficulty of tracing cyber-security breaches make these into risky decisions.

The Economist’s line is:

So what is needed most is an international effort to develop standards governing the integrity and security of telecoms networks. Sadly, the House Intelligence Committee isn’t smart enough to see this.

That’s smug and doesn’t address the real security concerns, or the immense difficulty of establishing international standards on telecom security, let alone guaranteeing the implementation of those standards.

However, an easier solution than waiting for agreement among a standards body would be to develop an open hardware specification for the components that met the security standards and a system for verifying them. That would encourage a free market on secure telecom hardware, which Huawei and others could participate in if they liked.