Intelligence Committee Continues Probe into Chinese Telecoms

Friday, February 17, 2012

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The House Intelligence Committee is continuing a probe into telecom firms suspected of aiding the Chinese government in spying activities.

The committee's focus thus far surrounds concerns over Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE regarding their relationship to the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Committee Chairman Mike Rogers had initiated the probe last fall after a preliminary inquiry into Chinese espionage operations subsequently determined the need for further investigation into threats aimed at the U.S. technology supply chain, critical infrastructure, and proprietary information.

"Attributing this espionage isn't easy, but talk to any private sector cyber analyst, and they will tell you there is little doubt that this is a massive campaign being conducted by the Chinese government," Rogers stated.

A report which details China's electronic espionage and intelligence apparatus was released in November 2011 by researchers at the Project 2049 Institute which concluded that China's intelligence gathering is not limited to national security and military efforts, but may also be geared towards gaining an economic advantage as well.

The report, titled "The Chinese People's Liberation Army Signal Intelligence and Cyber Reconnaissance Infrastructure", indicated that China has established a sophisticated multi-departmental organization for the purpose of espionage which includes both military and civilian entities.

The report stated with confidence that China is monitoring all communications within their borders, including those associated with foreign embassies and multinational corporations, and that they are probably able to defeat all but the most advanced forms of encryption, leaving a vast amount of sensitive information vulnerable to interception.

"The fact that our critical infrastructure could be used against us is of serious concern. We are looking at the overall infrastructure threat and Huawei happens to be the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but there are other companies that will be included in the investigation as well. As the formal investigation begins, I stand by my caution to the American business community about engaging Huawei technology until we can fully determine their motives," said Rogers stated last fall.

The United States Office of the Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX) last year also released a report that documents the billions of dollars in intellectual property and classified information being lost every year to cyber espionage.

The report, titled Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace, boldly suggested that state-sponsored entities in both China and Russia, among other offenders, are systematically targeting US government and private sector networks in an effort to pilfer valuable information that has tremendous economic value.

Representative Rogers called on Western governments "to confront Beijing and demand that they put a stop to this piracy.”

“Beijing is waging a massive trade war on us all, and we should band together to pressure them to stop. Combined, the United States and our allies in Europe and Asia have significant diplomatic and economic leverage over China, and we should use this to our advantage to put an end to this scourge,” Rogers said.

It is not only the United States that should be concerned about the role Huawei and ZTE may be playing in Chinese espionage efforts.

"China is trying to increase their footprint around the world and they encounter these sort of problems everywhere they go. Huawei tried to do a couple of big contracts in the UK and was rejected for the same sort of concerns that the United States has. Elsewhere, India had the same thing, Huawei was trying to bid for lots of contracts to build the telecommunications infrastructure and the Indians said 'absolutely not.' I understood it was the Home Ministry that said no and it was concerned about Chinese espionage," said researcher and scholar Raffaello Pantucci.

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Enterprise Security China Intellectual Property Telecom Headlines Espionage Monitoring Investigation Congress Communications Attribution Proprietary Information Huawei House Intelligence Committee ZTE Mike Rogers
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