Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Huawei & ZTE: Corporate spies or victims of non-tariff trade barrier

On this episode of the TWIT network's Tech News Today had an interesting discussion regarding the recent allegations that Huawei and ZTE were spying on US companies that purchase and use their equipment. As they hosts of the tech news show pointed out, Congress does not have any evidence that the firms were involved in such activity, but were rather concerned with the relationship of the two companies with the Chinese government. Another interesting point that they pointed out was that Cisco would benefit from such a ban. And according to this article, Cisco has paid $640,000 in lobbying on "measures to enhance and strengthen cyber security". As one analyst quoted by Bloomberg put it, "This is going to allow Cisco and Juniper to compete more fairly". However, Huawei too has been lobbying the US government to the tune of  $820,000. Although many have cited Chinese hackers as a threat, for example, it is suspected that Nortel was targeted over a ten-year period by such hackers. However, it is important to recognize that other factors are at play on the specific issue of ZTE and Huawei and that the risk of Chinese hacks should not be overstated. After all, non-Chinese companies do conduct industrial espionage against one another. For example, SAP had to pay $120 million to Oracle for such activity, which occurred in 2007. But if you raised the threat of German firms hacking to get into American companies, people would think you are not well. So although this threat is real, it is not new and it's not just coming from the Chinese.

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