Monthly Archives: January 2020

Putting on a show

As we approach the end of the era of relative independence from our Orange Overlord, it was inevitable we’d see some kind of show-fight, to deflect attention and send out a message that we were “sovereign”.  The necrofeliac will want a bigger cat than a regular moggie this time.

A few days ago, the news was from Davos: Chancellor Javid will go ahead with his digital services tax against US objections, and face a token trade war.  In the context of the French having backed off from superficially-similar proposals, that was somewhat impressive, though not really sexy.  The US reaction – proposing tariffs on car imports (what car imports?) – looks far too muted for this to be the Big One.

And indeed, it was just the prelude.  Today we have an announcement, and news stories that are making mountains out of molehills, both in what’s been announced[1] here and in the reactions to it.  Our telecoms networks are allowed to buy equipment from Huawei.  A lot of staged anger; likely also a few complete idiots whose anger is real.  I don’t suppose this’ll be the last disagreement, but the effort that’s gone in to it suggests it could be The Big One.

And journalists playing right into their hands.  On the BBC radio news this evening, an interview with a congressman Jim Banks, who is introducing a bill to ban intelligence sharing with countries who use Huawei (um, close Menwith Hill?  Yeah, right).  In that interview, but not noticed by the interviewer, Banks referred to Huawei kit on “intelligence networks”, which is a totally different scenario to Vodafone or EE upgrading their networks, and won’t affect intelligence sharing with the UK nor (as far as I know) anywhere.  Conclusion: Banks – a Congressman – is playing his part in a show-fight for Stuttley[2]’s benefit.

Banks let slip another nugget when he told us US provider Qualcomm is close to being able to deliver 5G kit, seemingly supporting the hypothesis that the Huawei fuss was all protectionism – delay 5G while US tech plays catchup.  But it seemed quite a contrived suggestion, not least because he could have mentioned western companies Nokia and Ericsson that already compete with Huawei in the market.  So perhaps that was also a decoy from the alternative hypothesis in the linked article?

My best guess now is this story will go on, and our telcos will find ways to work within the rules with limited disruption.  I hope so: there’s a lot waiting on 5G, and though most of it will turn out to be toys and dross, that’s a phase we’ll need to go through on the way to a more usefully-connected world.

And in a couple of years, maybe we’ll see some high-media-profile security incident attributed to Huawei kit.

In other news today, Cisco (the longstanding #1 US networking giant) published an advisory: their webex conferencing system has been wide open to an unauthorised participant.  A truly severe security risk if you thought your meeting was private!

[1] A very limited announcement: a much more limited go-ahead than given by the May government, let alone the widespread use of Huawei kit in 4G networks before it all got politicised.

[2] As in one B Stuttley Johnson, for anyone who doesn’t get the reference.