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US distrust of Huawei linked in part to malicious software update in 2012 • The Register

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Suspicions about the integrity of Huawei products among US government officials can be attributed in part to a 2012 incident involving a Huawei software update that compromised the network of a major Australian telecom company with malicious code, according to a report published by Bloomberg.

The report, based on interviews with seven former officials, some identified and some not, says that Optus, a division of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., had its systems compromised through a malicious update in 2012 – a claim the company disputes.

“The update appeared legitimate, but it contained malicious code that worked much like a digital wiretap, reprogramming the infected equipment to record all the communications passing through it before sending the data to China, [the sources] said,” Bloomberg’s report explains.

After several days, the snooping code reportedly deleted itself, but Australia’s intelligence services decided China’s intelligence services were responsible, “having infiltrated the ranks of Huawei technicians who helped maintain the equipment and pushed the update to the telecom’s systems.”

Australian intelligence is said to have shared details about the incident with American intelligence agencies, which subsequently identified a similar attack from China using Huawei hardware in the US.

The report seeks to provide an evidentiary basis for efforts by the US and other governments to shun Huawei hardware amid global 5G network upgrades and to give that business to non-Chinese firms.

Notably absent is any claim that Huawei leadership knew of this supposed effort to subvert Optus’ network. “Bloomberg didn’t find evidence that Huawei’s senior leadership was involved with or aware of the attack,” the report says.

In short, the claim is that China’s intelligence agencies compromised an Australian network by placing agents within Huawei, an ongoing risk for any number of prominent global technology firms.

‘Australia’s slander’

China has denied “Australia’s slander.” It’s perhaps worth noting that The Register is unaware of any nation owning up to recent intelligence activities. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, faced with compelling evidence unearthed by investigative news service Bellingcat of the FSB’s attempt to poison political opposition leader Alexey Navalny, denied that Russian agents had anything to do with Navalny’s near-fatal poisoning.

But the statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is unusual in that it suggests mutual guilt more than wounded innocence: “Australia’s slander on China carrying out cyberattacks and espionage penetration are purely a move like a thief crying to catch a thief.”

In other words, everyone spies and Australia has poor manners to air its grievances in public. Consider that the US National Security Agency by 2010 had already penetrated Huawei’s network to spy on founder Ren Zhengfei and associates, based on prior concern that Huawei could create backdoors in its equipment. That’s according to documents made available by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The Register asked Huawei to comment and a spokesperson provided us with a copy of the remarks John Suffolk, Huawei’s global cybersecurity officer, offered to Bloomberg.

“[W]ithout specifics, it is not possible to give you a detailed assessment as each operator is different,” said Suffolk in an emailed statement. “It is fanciful to suggest that ‘Huawei’s software updates can push whatever code they want into those machines, whenever they want, without anyone knowing.’ It does not work that way.”

“It is fanciful to suggest engineers can reprogram the code as they have no access to source code, cannot compile the source code to produce binaries and the binaries have tamper proofing mechanisms within them. We are leaders in encouraging governments, customers and the security ecosystem to review our products, look for design weaknesses, provide feedback on vulnerabilities or poor code examples and it is this openness and transparency that acts as a great protector.”

“Finally no tangible evidence has ever been produced of any intentional wrongdoing of any kind.”

But this isn’t about evidence presented in a public forum or court room. Huawei is not on trial, at least in this context.

Yes, there was that dustup with its CFO, resolved to avoid a serious diplomatic row, the US government’s trade secret theft lawsuit against Huawei based on T-Mobile’s civil lawsuit, and claims that Huawei screwed over a California IT consultancy and backdoored a network in Pakistan.

Can’t catch a break

Even so, Huawei’s guilt or innocence as it applies to helping China spy is largely irrelevant. As far as the US is concerned, Huawei can’t be trusted because the Chinese government could, in theory, make demands the company could not refuse. The feds are worried about precrime, to use the terminology of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, a story about a police unit that apprehends people predicted to commit crimes.

The US Federal Communications Commission recently used future concerns, alongside past behavior and secret accusations, to ban another Chinese firm from operating in the US. In October, the FCC announced that China Telecom Americas could no longer do business in America. The agency said it based its decision [PDF] partly on classified evidence provided by national security agencies.

But it also said “the totality of the extensive unclassified record alone” was sufficient to justify its decision. The agency concluded that China Telecom Americas could potentially be forced to comply with Chinese government requests and company officials have demonstrated a lack of candor and trustworthiness to US officials.

And trust is key. The changeable nature of software and the possibility of concealed hardware functions make it inherently risky to accept IT systems from untrusted sources. The risk can be mitigated through source code inspection, auditing, and other precautions, but not completely.

Trust is an issue for everyone involved. In February, Bloomberg followed up on its controversial 2018 report of covert spy chips with word that similar snooping hardware was found in 2015 on the motherboards of servers made by US computer maker Supermicro, a claim the company disputed. The Register at the time spoke with a former executive at a prominent chip making firm who insisted such devices exist and that he’d personally held some of them. We trust our source but still, more concrete proof would be nice.

In retrospect it seems obvious any intelligence agency with enough funds and know-how would want such a thing. And it’s difficult to believe no one has ever successfully deployed a surveillance chip or backdoored a system destined for a geopolitical rival. But the absence of samples that have been publicly dissected and analyzed means again, we’re left to interpret national-state shadowplay with hints and whispers.

Coincidentally, this state of affairs – where lack of trust means nation-based IT stacks – works just fine for companies based in the countries where they can make claims about spying behind closed doors and see government funding that puts their products in the place of ousted competitors.

We can only imagine the cheer that went out among network switch vendors when the FCC announced it would pay US telecom providers to rip and replace their Huawei gear. And given the ways in which China has tilted its market toward local firms, it might be fair to say turnabout is fair play, if anyone were actually concerned about fair play. ®

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Angharad Yeo: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Comedy

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I am a child of the internet. I was always drawn to computers and tech, and used to beg my dad to bring us to his office on a weekend so we could use the high-speed internet to play Neopets games. As I got older it was all MSN, MySpace, Paramore fan forums, Tumblr, Twitter and now TikTok. I want nothing more than to zone out and look at my little pictures.

One of my favourite things about the internet is that it allows you to see everyone’s best joke. The moment in their life where they were at their absolute funniest – whether it be because they had a moment of brilliant wit or because they got pulled through a panel roof while practising for a high school play (I assume).

The internet has rotted my brain with the following content. Please now allow it to rot yours.

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The Pandemic Years have (and continue to be) difficult for everyone. Who among us has not, at one time or another, needed to just explain themselves by saying: “It’s mental illness, innit?”

2. Perfect burger

When I showed this video to my fiancee, she flatly said: “I like how absurdist it is.” That’s her code for, “I don’t get it, but I’m happy you’re happy.” And I am happy. Look at how confident and brave this burger is – ready to take on the world, come what may. I wish to be the burger.

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I have been to court precisely once because I inadvertently got in a cop’s way and he was grumpy about it so he booked me. The penalty was dismissed but not before I cried in front of the judge trying to explain what happened because I was so stressed out. Court is a daunting place and I simply cannot imagine walking in there with any level of irreverence. However, I’m extremely glad there are people who simply do not care, will say whatever damn thing and then an internet angel turns them into TikToks.

4. Turtle choir

This tweet is made all the more majestic by the vaguely threatening Sylvanian Families-style profile picture, on a Twitter account named @bigfatmoosepssy.

5. Trying coffee with pasta water

Climate change is slowly turning the Earth into a barren ball of pain as Mother Nature smacks us for being extremely bad. Even though individual responsibility for climate change isn’t enough to turn the tide, I still applaud those who try. Twitter user @madibskatin woke up in the morning and decided to be the change she wants to see in the world, tastebuds be damned. One could argue that it’s pretty obvious that pasta water isn’t going to make a good coffee but like my dad says as he puts pineapple juice in his coffee: “If no one tries it, how will we know? What if it’s secretly good?”

6. Soaring, flying

If you look closely, this video is actually a metaphor for the ways in which we attempt to break free from our circumstances, yet are entirely at the mercy of them.

7. You cannot trick me

This may be a parody Twitter account, but the spirit of Gail Walden speaks truths. There is no victory sweeter than that which is gained on thine enemy’s own soil.

8. Self-deprecating jokes

Humour is a coping mechanism. I am coping.

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Dairy products are delicious. Ice-cream? Revolutionary. Cheese? Life-changing. Whipped cream on a pavlova? Essential. But milk? Disgusting. It’s not a drink, it’s a stepping stone to greater things.

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I am absolutely 100% not at all lactose intolerant (I promise) so I don’t relate to this video at all (not even a bit).

Angharad Yeo is the host of Double J Weekends, 9am – midday, Saturdays and Sundays.



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F5 cuts revenue 2022 forecasts amid low network chip stocks • The Register

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The artist formerly know as F5 Networks – it moved to plain old F5 in November – is clipping revenue forecasts for fiscal ’22 by $30m to $90m because it can’t source enough specialised chips to produce systems.

The continued impact of the shortfall was outlined in F5’s Q1 results to 31 December and subsequent earnings conference call, during which chief exec François Locoh-Donou opened up on the challenge of suppliers cancelling orders because they can’t meet demand.

“As a result of persistent strong system demand, our systems backlog continued to grow in Q1,” he said. “Over the last 30 days, suppliers of critical components that span a number of our platforms have informed us of significant increases in decommits.

“These came in the form of both order delivery delays and sudden and pronounced reduction in shipment quantities. The step function decline in components availability is significantly restricting our ability to meet our customers’ continued strong demand for our systems.

“Like others in the industry, we are seeing worsening availability of specialized networking chipsets. Within the last 30 days, we have learned that deliveries for 52-week lead time components or at a year ago have been pushed out and that our expected quantities have been reduced.”

Group turnover grew 10 per cent year-on-year to $687m in F5’s Q1, fuelled by a 47 per cent leap in software to $163m, 2 per cent in services to $344m, and 1 per cent in hardware to $180m.

“Our software transition continues to gain momentum,” said Locoh-Donou, adding later in the earnings call: “While we are solely disappointed that supply chain challenges have gated our ability to fulfil customer demand for systems in the near term, we are more confident than ever in our position, our strategy and our long-term opportunity.”

The backlog grew by 10 per cent so the sales pipeline is looking healthy, said the exec, who was at great pains throughout the call to tell analysts: “It absolutely is a supply issue. And the revision we’ve just done to our annual guidance is 100 per cent linked to the supply issue.”

For the year, F5 now expects sales to grow 4-8 per cent ($610m to $650m).

“The issue with our supply chain has deteriorated steadily. And last year, we were not able to ship the demand, which is why our backlog grew so much during the year.

“Things have been getting worse. And at the beginning of our fiscal year, when we were doing the planning for this year, we actually took into account the number of decommits that we were getting from various suppliers and a situation that was already very tight on a number of components.”

He said in the past month it was seeing more than 400 cancellations from suppliers, “and we were running about 30 per cent less than that even just a month ago – the situation is quite unprecedented.”

In a bid to ameliorate the supply situation, F5 said it is working to design and qualify replacement parts – which may improve thing in the second half of the year. It is also trying to pre-order more components.

F5 is confident that it will not see orders cancelled. “The demand we have is very real. Our lead times, unfortunately, have gotten progressively worse over the last five, six quarters, but we haven’t seen any increase in order cancellation, and we don’t expect to see that going forward,” Locoh-Donou stated.

Supply chain problems with silicon components have been hitting companies in the IT industry and beyond for multiple quarters now, and networking vendors are no less vulnerable.

Last year, Arista warned that lead times for key chips were extending out to 60 weeks, twice what would be expected before the pandemic. Both Arista and Juniper announced they were being forced to bump up prices in November, while Cisco warned its buyers and investors that supply chain issues were likely to persist for several months more, although it expected to see some improvement in the situation for Q3 and Q4, taking us into the second half of 2022. ®

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Cork data centre equipment maker Edpac acquired for €29m

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Munters, a Swedish air treatment technology company, will use the Edpac acquisition to expand into the European market.

Irish data centre equipment manufacturer Edpac has been acquired by Swedish company Munters in a €29m deal.

Based in Carrigaline, Co Cork, Edpac manufactures cooling equipment and air handling systems for data centres in the European market, with additional sales in the Middle East, South America and Asia.

For Munters, which has significant operations in North America, the acquisition is an opportunity for it to expand in the European market. Once complete, the deal will see the transfer of Munters’ technologies and engineering capabilities to Ireland.

“The European data centre market is a prioritised segment for Munters, and the acquisition is a significant step in our growth strategy,” said Klas Forsström, president and chief executive of Munters.

Forsström said that Munters’ experience in the North American market will provide Edpac with “opportunities for further profitable growth” by collaborating on “technology development and establishing unified processes”.

Edpac has two manufacturing facilities in Ireland – Newmarket and Carrigaline – and employs around 150 people in the country. Currently a manufacturing partner for Munters, Edpac sees approximately 7pc of its revenue come from the sale of Munters products.

In the financial year ending April 2021, Edpac reported net sales of €17m and earnings before tax of €1.7m. According to The Irish Times, Edpac managing director Noel Lynch has led the company since it was bought from its Swiss parent in 1991.

“We are excited to welcome Edpac to Munters. Edpac brings an attractive, differentiated customer base and high-quality products,” Forsström said, adding that Edpac’s operating model “is a perfect match with Munters ways of working.”

Founded in 1955, Munters aims to create energy efficient air treatment technologies for customers in a wide range of industries. Listed on Nasdaq Stockholm, it employees 3,300 employees across 30 countries – with annual sales exceeding 7bn Swedish krona in 2020.

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