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Opinion: Comms & IT Minister Amy Adams needs to start asking questions about Huawei; To say it's inappropriate to is just a way of dodging her responsibilities

Posted in Opinion
See video

Dear Amy,

You're obviously quickly learning what being a Cabinet Minister involves.

But you seem to have missed one key aspect of it.

As Communications and IT Minister, you are responsible for the roll-out of the government's ultra-fast broadband package across New Zealand.

That means if anything untoward happens within your portfolio, or there's any worrying news about projects within your portfolio, you should be asking questions of the source of that news to try and figure out whether any action needs to be taken by yourself, the government, or the organisations you're responsible for.

It has emerged this week that the Australian government has banned a Chinese telco company from participating in building the Australian National Broadband Network. They say they did this due to concerns over national security (however they're still encouraging the company to keep expanding its other operations in Australia).

The company, Huawei, is also involved in building part of New Zealand's ultra-fast broadband infrastructure, in Christchurch and the central North Island. The company is headed by a former Peoples' Liberation Army engineer, and is owned by its founders and employees. It was only last year it disclosed for the first time who its directors were.

The US government's House Intelligence Committee is investigating the company due to concerns of national security.

Huawei might be kosher. I would not at all be surprised if the Australians and Americans are taking the actions they are for purposes of politicking. Having a go at 'them nasty reds" seems to be a theme around Western politics at the moment (just ask Labour how much support they've gained/kept over their Crafar farms scare mongering).

But then again, they might not be kosher. Or it could be the case that sometime in the future, they might not be.

You've assured us that you're comfortable with the intelligence streams the New Zealand government has.

But our intelligence service can't even keep people out of its own satellite base.

Asking someone whether they've heard the one about the Dominican friar, the farmer and the teacher might sound like you're about to start telling a joke. The joke in question was New Zealand's intelligence service. The Waihopai three, as they're called, had so much time once they broke into the satellite base they were able to set up a shrine and have a campfire sing along.

So to say it would be inappropriate for you yourself to ask Australian authorities why they took the actions they did, appears like you're not taking any responsibility for your portfolio.

You are the Minister responsible for the broadband roll-out. If our closest ally reckons these guys can't be trusted, then the first thing you should be doing is getting on the blower to your Australian counterparts and asking why.

You don't need to tell us what they told you. It would just be nice to know that you're asking questions about developments within your portfolio.

That's all.

Kind regards,

Alex Tarrant.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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53 Comments

Good article Alex.  It would

Good article Alex.  It would seem that Ms Adams is a muppet, which is normal for a NZ cabinet minister.

Yes good work Alex go get her

Yes good work Alex go get her with a big stick .....and don't forget it's Noodle Muppet not your runo the mill fuzzy bear.
 I would like to see the relevant posts transfered from yesterdays thread on this( to here)
 as I believe there is a great deal of relevance and would hope to provoke some response.
 sil vous plait'

Yes - young NZjournalists it

Yes - young NZjournalists it is your future – challenge our politicians.
Alex finally - good to see young journalists talking tough with our ministers. Far more questions should be ask, well prepared and researched in a similar style of the “Hard talk” program in England.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfUozKMgA-Y
Looking into NZjournalism - we are a long way off from political maturity .
I’m also astonished about the arrogance of some of the frontbench ministers - not a sign of real confidence.
 
Some civil servants in this country obviously have forgotten - to serve the public.
 
 

Amy talks on the tape about

Amy talks on the tape about the
"full associations and collabaritive relationships that we have"
I read this to be more that just our SIS. 
Obviously spy agencies don't want to get dragged into a public debate.
 
She can't say much more than what she is already saying.
 
 

Granted. But our SIS are

Granted. But our SIS are ultimately the ones who decide what to do with the information they receive, and how to decipher it.
Cheers,
Alex

On ABC television last night,

On ABC television last night, political commentator Heather Ewart, stated the NZ Government "received the same advice" as the Australian Government, but chose to ignore it. (her exact words)

Do you have a

Do you have a link?
Cheers
Alex

Try this - The 7:30 report

Try this - The 7:30 report (first segment)  http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/916529

I tried to view this but when

I tried to view this but when I clicked on the link it said I couldn't view it as it was only available to people living in Australia.

It's a cheap shot to bring up

It's a cheap shot to bring up the Waihopai incldent.
In the first instance Australian security is no better.  Sydney airport, subject to Australia federal jurisdiction and goodness knows how many security dollars post 9/11 found staff running a drug ring through it:
http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Airport-link-to-cocaine-ring-arrests...
Besides, do you want to live in the kind of police state that enforces security to that degree???
 

I think the reference relates

I think the reference relates to breach of security in a restricted area vs. breach of security in a public area (airport). So yes, it would be good if national security risks are policed so that random civilians cannot get access to it. As opposed to an airport, where public are strolling through all the time.

This Huawei saga is a

This Huawei saga is a complete beatup by those with next to no knowledge of anything 'IT'.

Care to expand on that

Care to expand on that sweeping statement?

In a world where it is

In a world where it is possible to deliver a piece of hidden malicious software directly to the person/company you want to snoop on, why would you risk installing a secret general 'backdoor' into hardware, that could be found by anyone halfway competant with such matters.
Also in the case of Australia, Stephen Conroy wants to install a great big filter anyway.
As for the US, any NZ traffic transiting their network are already potentially subject to deep packet inspection if so desired.
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/%E2%80%9Cwe-are-far-turnkey-totalitarian-s...
And we're supposed to be worried about Huawei? Give me a break. Again what you see in parliament is all theatre.

generally I agree.....that is

generally I agree.....that is the joke....about the USA.....whomever owns the packet owns the data....china if it doesnt see the packet on its soil can do diddly, because, 
Now yes OK you could get a backdoor into a switch or router on a site but the problem with that is firewalls and bandwidth....these things monitor every packet in and out.....so OK lets say a spy in china knows the switch/routers IP address, so sends an encrypted string to open it up.....two immediate problems.....first the firewall is going to see it if not block it, log it...and then the biggest is the problem of what do they do with the data through the router....As a example our core router sees 10~20mbit/sec across the core.....how is a "secret" backdoor going to deal with that? send it back to china? yeah right....Process it in-situ?  Im doing that right now across a scanner front end and a mysql backend......Im chewing through 120gig a day in volume after I filter....and Im using 6 x 3 ghz cpu cores and 16gb of ram to do it....
Then mutliple this by how many decent sized businesses there are.....and if its encrypted? oh dear....
Huawei worries are a bad joke....more like racism against Chinese products to my mind...oh lets by Cisco? LOL....
regards
 
 

I think its more likely they

I think its more likely they would just have a kill switch built into their firmware/chips, that would give the Chinese military the ability to shutdown/brick the appliance, distrupting or killing the network relying on it.  I don't think running your core network on Huwai makes  sense unless you trust the Chinese miliary.
Imagine NZ without an internet connection for a few days, the damage to business would be in the billions and would result in large scale capital flight.  
Now imagine the US networks taken down, that would result in most of the worlds internet sites and trade offline.  
 
 
 
 

Thanks robby217

Thanks robby217

Robby217 - your point of view

Robby217 - your point of view is too simplistic. Minister obviously take professional advice, before they make decisions. These decisions need to be presented to parliament for approval - a political process. The public has a right to be informed about such activities. Ministers have an obligation to act in the best interest of the NZpublic. This shouldn’t be theatre, but serious democratic processes.
 
The real theatre occurs when  NZmedia and the NZpublic accept the failure of ministers, who simply say, e.g. we have taken professional advice or that isn’t my responsibility.
 
Are we making ministers in this country really accountable for their actions/ portfolio ?
see 1:24pm

I'm not convinced the NZ

I'm not convinced the NZ parliament can actually add anything to this issue.? What would the Minister have to do to convince people, - give a detailed technical speech related to the backbone of NZ internet infrastructure?
I agree I'm sure the Minister would have taken professional technical advice, and yes I agree at somepoint there should be info sharing with Australia. I would be surprised if this hasn't already happened before over the years.
It's not like Huawei are new.

Under democratic rules, only

Under democratic rules, only transparent open processes and debates within parliament/ committees lead to successful, political legislations.
As we currently experiencing with ACC, Crafar and other issues, it is important that political parties practice critical examinations for the best outcome of the nation.
 
By the way: I think something bigger is brewing within the NP. I said that 2 months ago John Key will not survive 2012 as the leader – in my opinion.

OK I see you are wound up

OK I see you are wound up about other issues - but on this specific issue what is parliament to do? Are there another set of experts to bring in? Gareth Hughes isn't one of them ...

 I think it is a highly

 I think it is a highly sensitive issue.
Ideal would be political parties consulting their experts in order to find solutions together – including seeking advice from overseas, before parliament make the final decision.  

Would you like some Kumbaya

Would you like some Kumbaya singing with that?
Do political parties have IT and hardware security firms on retainers?
The Labour party couldn't even secure their donations website.

Who do you see as his future

Who do you see as his future replacement?  (and I assume BE's replacement?)   Brownless has positively shined hasnt he?  I mean he's stupid.....LOL........cartoon of him in the dom post wrapped in anchor chain at the bottom of a sea trench sums him up.....
Steve Joyce is the only vaguely competent one I can think of and I cant see it.  So, I find the idea that JK will go this year very hard to swallow/understand.  If nothing else hard to see who will replace him....I mean he's been teflon Key for 4 years...anything awkward or messy and he deflects it onto a minister who takes the flak....Come 2014 and it still looks bad I guess national could repalce him, but even then just who waltzs in?  
regards
 

I just did...agreeing with

I just did...agreeing with Rob...
Would you like me to expand further?
 
regards
 

It's a bloody sad day when

It's a bloody sad day when Kiwis agree with the Aussies in their xenophobic attack upon a Chinese company .........
 
....... if Huawei was domiciled in Germany , not China , would we have an issue with the possibility of cyber-hacking ?
 
And yet who was it that we helped to beat up in two world wars ..... China , or Germany ...... have we gotten confused on whom to trust , and who are the world's biggest bunch of war mongering prats ......
 
....... what are we worried about anyway , that the Chinese might eavesdrop , and purloin our recipe for marmite ?

The principal advisor to ASIO

The principal advisor to ASIO would be USA/CIA/NSA etc etc etc ..
Makes me wonder if the NZ decision was a two-fingered salute to the US for its treatment of NZ over ANZUS over the years, or, could it be a trade-off over the Crafar decision.

I applaud the Australians for

I applaud the Australians for making an astute and sensible judgment. Hopefully one day in New Zealand we will learn how to do the same. If Kiwi’s think that spying and cyber-based espionage doesn’t go on here in New Zealand by foreign powers, then they should just crawl back to their little hobbits co-operative 50 miles up the valley past the back of beyond, where they can worry about really scary things like GE, global warming and organic lentils. 

DavidB, your comment  is

DavidB, your comment  is rubbish frankly....to be so nieve to think that the USA wouldnt stoop to something like this if it was practical is well, par for the course from you.  Yet again you seem to be wading into an area you know nothing about....
I would love to see why the Ozzies have done this because on the info provided it makes no technical sense.
Do you really think that there is no one looking for such activity on a global scale?  because you are wrong....there are a lot of anti-virus researchers looking for patterns like the ones that would be left by such activity...so it is extremly unlikely that anyone from china or indeed anywhere else can monitor packets on the scale required without the "snail trails" being noticed....the only way they could do it without being noticed it to copy each packet as it passes through their territory...and guess where most packets traverse....well the good old USA.
 
regards
 

Steven. Wrong. You do get off

Steven. Wrong. You do get off on one-track ideas. It is simpler than that. AU is investing a massive amount in an NBN which in time will be the back-bone of the nations economy. Think ECONOMY. Think risk-assessment. Think light-switch. Think if you had the key to turning the lights off for a week.

Hells bells you dont know

Hells bells you dont know much about networking, IT  and IT security do you....and cisco on instruction from its US govn couldnt or wouldnt do the same? ....Do you really think cisco couldnt put a backdoor into its IOS code update at some point? if its was instructed to do so? they wouldnt blink, they have absolutely no morals what so ever.....
Look at all the private carriers in other countries that are using the equipment......the thing to realise is if you want to avoid such an event you use different equipment from different vendors and multiple paths giving redundancy....bear in mind this isnt a military network but a commercial one.....
If we get to the stage that some foreign power that wanted to do this would then we'd already be throwing lead.....
regards
 
 

Hells bells you dont know

Hells bells you dont know much about networking, IT  and IT security do you?
Much more than you realise. You have no idea.

Where is the evidence that

Where is the evidence that such keys exist? Nobody has provided any evidence at all of anything related to Huawei equipment.
All we have on the record is that some cyberhacking has come from Chinese IP addresses. Just because it comes from a Chinese IP doesn't mean it hasn't been routed from elsewhere via slave machines in China. Particularly when it is known Chinese tend to use pirated software, which probably hasn't received the latest patches and thus easily vulnerable.
I don't doubt Chinese govt does do some hacking especially considering they have the labour to do it with, but so does every other govt. The issue should be, why our most super top secret sensitive documents are even on a network that is connected to the internet in the first place, if they require such high level security.
Even the Iranians nuclear program which was affected by Stuxnet had to be introduced via a USB key or similar.

From the Guardian     In the

From the Guardian
 
 
In the UK, BT reiterated its confidence in Huawei, and said that it was able to examine source code for products to check for "back doors" or eavesdropping functions.
It said in a statement: "BT's relationship with Huawei and other suppliers is managed strictly in accordance with UK laws and security best practice. BT's network is underpinned by robust security controls and built-in resilience. We continue to work closely with all our suppliers and the government, where appropriate, to ensure that the security of the network is not compromised."

Sydney Morning Herald today

Sydney Morning Herald today with an interview with the Prime Minister:
"The newspaper said that decision was prompted by Australian intelligence officials who cited hacking attacks traced to China."

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/government-it/pm-defends-banning-of-chinese-company-20120329-1w0lt.html#ixzz1qYAkED7W
 

So the real reason Huawei is

So the real reason Huawei is being banned is not because any problems were found with Huawei equipment or anything that Huawei was doing, but because it is Chinese and they are punishing China for attacks they think originate from China.
The word trace is a specific IT word and it means trace/find the IP  address of the originating connection. The IP was probably found to be in a block that Chinease ISP's issue. This isn't much evidence as the originating computer could well have been hacked by someone else. Any serious hacker will have done this as they wan't to hide their tracks because they don't want to get caught. 
See this link for who the Americans think are the best at Hacking.
 http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-b

Is your point mass xenophobia

Is your point mass xenophobia as the cause of Huawei's exclusion Kiwi...?
 A kind of perhaps...akin to perhaps...but they don't call strategic allied interests  racism anymore although in a way it's inescapable...eh.
I am reasonably sure if we were still a part of  a "Nuclear" strategic alliance  the outcome would have been similar here.

There certainly isnt any

There certainly isnt any sound IT reason for banning the chinese branded equipment.
regards
 

No it's not, is it

No it's not, is it Steven...!
So lets not buy into that story then ok.
Britain by their own admission had to spend a lot of money on security upgrades post the inclusion of Huawei......even though as a face saving exercise  had to broadcast , that all was ok here...just a precaution,....no worries.
 For all of us Steven most paranoia is groundless....and yet there it is..!
 And so, if I feel more comfortable with our traditional close neighbours and their big brother having input into my future direction or just geneally watching out for me.. then I'm O.K. with that....it's just an opinion....it's just a choice...nothing sinister.
 If you are more comfortable with "our new best freinds " directing some of our future or generally watching out for you.....
 I'm O.K. with that too...........................................................untill.

Who thinks the americans are

Who thinks the americans are really our friends? or look out for us?  I dont for one instant....are they better than  the chinese?  for myself hard to answer I admit......I wouldnt particulary trust either, either is capable of doing a "bad" thing....Now if we said OK only NZ made equipement for the essential bits well OK.....but we have not....
regards
 

It's a practial world

It's a practial world Steven....real freinds...? who knows..?....I know what happened in the Coral Sea....I know what John Curtain said to Churchill...I know what Churchill said... a time when action spoke louder than words those ghastly Americans saved our asses, don't waste any spin with me on that....it doesn't mean I stand and applaud every war mongerin thing they have done..nor does it mean I support them sacrificing American lives just to support their appetite for energy...nor does it mean I cannot see the greed and avarice of Wall st.
It just means when push comes to shove.......I'll not um n ah ...you know.
 I am not naive enough not to know Australia's strategic value to the U.S.....I just happen to be comfortable with it ..that's all.

NO sound IT reason ? Not

NO sound IT reason ? Not too sure I agree with you there steven.
 
Consider this:- Many years ago I worked on IBM scientific computers. One day, one of them failed. Local IBM engineer couldnt fix it. After 24 hours IBM sent their head AKL engineer. He couldnt fix it. IBM WGTN sent up their top NZ engineer. He couldnt fix it. After 72 hours IBM regional sent their top engineer from MELB. He had 48 hours to fix it. He couldnt. IBM USA then sent out their top guy who eventually diagnosed the problem.
 
Today that wouldnt happen. It would be diagnosed remotely from a central services location. While I am not that familiar with comms gear, I would hazard a guess and say that support would be by Huawei Central, via remote access with direct access to the circuitry and micro-code with capability to access any IP dependent device.
 
Some years ago I did a "C" programming course at Monash University. The lecturer said at the outset he could write a single line of code that would be so dense and compact it would take a week to decode it.  I interpreted that to mean that if he tried really hard he could write a line of code that would be (almost) impossible to crack.

You are spot on there

You are spot on there Iconoclast.  The reality is this - if Huawei really wanted to embed some form of snooping hardware/software that would provide the ability to eavesdrop on certain numbers and channels at their convenience, they absolutely could.  It would also be completely possible for them to remove any evidence of this during routine maintenance.
 
Of course they could - if you honestly think that NZ has the capability to detect that level of espionage, you are seriously over-estimating the level of expertise resident in this country. 
 
But is this a valid concern?  I really don't think so.  At the end of the day, they are the largest builder of mobile networks in the world and any hint of foul play would bring that highly lucrative business empire crashing down.  Who do you think is building 2degrees mobile network and routing all their calls right now?  Huawei, because they know what they're doing and they build a great network!
 
Did you also realise that they make mobile phones?  There are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of them already out there in the NZ market right now, they've been here for years!  Are they also embedded with snooping chips and software?  Is your phone camera spying on you?  I don't know.  Probably not, frankly.  You're not that interesting.
 
I am, of course.  Which is why I have an iPhone.  :)
 
 

Did you hear about the iPhone

Did you hear about the iPhone bug that for several years has let apps dump the your contact list and photos to their servers?
It's complete folly if you think any piece of equipment setup is going to be safer than any other, especially given the increases of socially engineering related attacks which can be largely platform independant.

and you think the anti-virus

and you think the anti-virus writers are not being able to crack the best that can be written?
In a word, laughable.
but you miss the point.....when a new virus comes out it creates a network trace/pattern, that pattern has to do 2 things, one control and 2 retrieve data. Such things are an anomaly.....we have software to find those....
This is one of the best
http://www.snort.org/
"Combining the benefits of signature, protocol, and anomaly-based inspection, Snort is the most widely deployed IDS/IPS technology worldwide."
The disadvantage is the cost.....time and hardware.....
There are lots of sniffing stations out there looking for those patterns both old and new....So the only way those dont get seen is when the switches and routers are physically on say the US's soil and the packets are duplicated off onto a seperate network and storage at the router, one port is simply set to "promiscious" and every packet is seen by it and copied.  I do that on our core routers when I am looking for such patterns.....I get to see every packet and log it.....but that takes 6 to 8 x 3 GHz cpus to deal with 15mb/sec.....and Im not trying to break the encryption, that is something else again.
regards

My point was that

My point was that the Australian intelligence officials
seemed to imply that Huawei was not being banned for any Huawei specific security issues but because of a general worry about what they thought were Chinese Hackers. living in mainland China
Maybe the spooks want to contain China. Maybe they confused the Australian Politicians.
Maybe the spooks thought they were more important than what they really are. Maybe they don't understand their station in life.
 
On the other hand the spooks probably think they are underappreciated and they need to be shown more understanding and this explains  their behaviour.
 
Maybe they all need to get a cat so that they can get some tlc before they  start a new Cold War with China.

Maybe they all need to get a

Maybe they all need to get a cat so that they can get some tlc before they  start a new Cold War with China.
 
Kiwi ..........you just said a mouthful there..!
Except maybe you could replace the word start with expose.
A long time ago here I suggested Australia would sacrifice it's economy if it meant supporting an American return to protectionism...
I still think so. ........the peripheral edge of a standoff in detent' will highlight such things as  Huawei.

And a Happy Friday to your

And a Happy Friday to your good self SoreL...

Alex, thanks. Good stuff. I

Alex, thanks. Good stuff. I enjoyed the Labour please advise and resubmit also.