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Is tech paranoia justified?

1 July 2020

Tech maybe scary to some but are the current levels of paranoia really justified?

What am I talking about?

Well for some time now, a number of Western nations have been claiming that Chinese-owned companies such as Huawei are no longer eligible to provide critical infrastructure components or equipment.

The concern seems to be that the Chinese government has total power over these companies and therefore it is possible (some say almost certain) that equipment from such manufacturers could contain covert monitoring capabilites or even a remotely operable "killswitch" ability.

Clearly, no nation wants to be under constant surveillance by the Chinese Comunist Party (CCP) so this is a risk that few are prepared to take, regardless of the savings to be had by buying Sino-gear.

In fact, the FCC just madre a formal declaration on the matter.

Yes, according to this TechCrunch story The FCC has declared both Huawei and ZTE to be "national security threats".

Interestingly enough, the FCC ruling does not actually ban gear from these manufacturers, it simply prohibits the use of federal funding (normally provide to subsidise infrastructure expansion) being used for such purchases.

Given that all telecomms equipment in the USA must carry an FCC approval before it can legally be used, this leaves me scratching my head a little.

Either this gear *is* a threat to the national security of the USA or it's not -- surely?

Does it really matter whether a router, switch 5G system or whatever is purchased with federal dollars or not, when it comes to establishing its "threat" status?

Well who knows how the US government and it's agencies work -- I suspect the answer is "nobody".

It's not just telecoms gear that can now no longer be purchased using federal funding either.

Chinese drone manufacturer DJI has also gone on the blacklist. The justification for this is that these drones "could" be sending critical intelligence back to China. For that reason, neither the US military nor any other federal agency is now allowed to buy these drones, despite the sworn assurances of the manufacturer that all data is safe and despite independent tests now indicating the same.

This Sino-phobia (rather strange in such a WOKE era) has thrown a spanner in the spokes of 5G roll-outs around the world, given that Huawei are a key manufacturer of such gear.

Here in NZ, plans for a 5G roll-out were (from memory) rolled back after Spark was forbidden to use Huawei gear.

Do *I* think that we should be using critical infrastructure components from China?

Well to be honest, there's probably a good case to avoid it.

China has proven itself to be a bad-actor at the state level when it comes to espionage and surveillance. Mind you, I really do believe that the same can be said for every Western nation on the face of the earth so who are we to judge?

Anyone remember the GCSB's "unlawful" spying on Kiwis a few years back?

Have we noticed that the US government is demanding "back doors" into all devices and services that use strong encryption?

I'm sorry but the world is a dirty place and we should trust nobody, not even our own government or the governments of our allies.

With that in mind, perhaps it's time to go back to using two tin-cans and a piece of string as our primary telecoms technology -- but beware, you might want to make the string yourself -- just in case :-)

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