A MESSAGE FROM OUR FOUNDER AND CEO -
Kapersky and Huawei are two companies, one from Russia and one from China, that have come under fire for their relations with the military and intelligence organizations inside their respective countries. The current campaign, led by White House advisor Rob Joyce against Kapersky, a cyber-security firm based in Russia, is worth questioning.
Royce recently stated he would advise his family against using Kaspersky Labs antivirus software. Several federal agencies and even Congress have also voiced concern against Kapersky for suspected ties to Russia's intelligence agencies. Yet, no U.S. government agency or intelligence official can cite any specific charge.
Yes, there are the usual questions; Eugene Kaspersky, the company’s founder, attended a KGB-affiliated university and worked for military intelligence. He admitted being friends with several high-ranking government officials and Kapersky is known to provide assistance to international law enforcement agencies, including the Russian FSB.
However, Kapersky is also credited with connecting the gangsters known as the Lazarus Group with the North Korean Bureau 121, an offensive military information warfare unit based in Pyongyang and China. The Lazarus Group has been the source of major computer virus, ransomware and targeted attacks against the west, including the ransomware attacks that cost billions of dollars to international companies and a bank robbery using the U.S. Federal Reserve to steal millions from the nation of Bangladesh.
In comparison, the Chinese firm Huawei shares much the same profile with Kapersky. Huawei is a major producer of global electronics including cell phones, computer communications devices, fiber optic systems and industrial communications networks. Huawei was founded by Ren Zhengfei, who is loosely described as an ex-Chinese Army electronics engineer. Zhengfei reportedly retired from the Chinese Army at the rank of Major.
Yet, Zhengfei's close ties with the Chinese military were cited by the Indian government as a security concern in not allowing Huawei to win contracts inside India. Zhengfei's close working relationship with the PLA also led to the collapse of Huawei's efforts to buy 3Com. In the UK, GCHQ and the UK Intelligence and Security Committee recommended the removal of Huawei's equipment due to spying fears.
I first encountered Huawei while investigating the Clinton administration exports of advanced fiber optic encrypted communication systems to firms directly owned and sometimes operated entirely by the Chinese Army. This investigation led to Chinese Army sales of the same fiber-optic systems to the Afghan Taliban government in 2001 and to then Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein.
The sales and installations in Afghanistan in 2001 were completed just days prior to the 9/11 attack on America. The system was described as a switching network to handle up to 130,000 phone users but in reality it was a sophisticated military communications system designed to assist the Taliban air defense net of surface to air missiles.
A similar system of buried fiber optic cables and encrypted communications gear was installed in the Iraqi desert for Saddam by China. In fact, the Iraqi system was so effective and state of the art that it acquired its own NATO code-name; "Tiger Song".
The largest allied strikes against the Iraqi air defense system took place in March 2001. The late night U.S. and U.K. air raids were timed to minimize casualties on the ground, blasting the Iraqi system when Chinese Army engineers were not working on the air defense network. In addition, the war with the Taliban started with our B-2 attacks to knock out the Huawei fiber optic network.
Fast forward to the Obama administration and starting in 2012, the same questions surrounding Huawei rose up again. The House Intelligence Committee held a yearlong investigation and came to the conclusion that Huawei was a national security threat because of their attempts to extract sensitive information from U.S. companies. The House report also noted that internal documents from former employees of Huawei showed it supplied services to a “cyberwarfare” unit in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
There is good reason to believe the 2012 House report. The concerns about Huawei were so intense in 2010 that the U.S. National Security Agency began a special operation to penetrate the Chinese firm code-named “Shotgiant”. We know about Shotgiant from the leaked information from Edward Snowden. The Snowden documents show the NSA penetrated Huawei at the highest levels and even implanted special code inside Huawei products to provide surveillance from its customer base such as North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran.
The House report and the Snowden documents published by the New York Times led Huawei to seek assistance inside the U.S. So they once again returned to a friendly face, someone they trusted to make deals and who had been so helpful before. They returned to the Clinton network through Hillary’s soon to be top campaign advisor, then Counselor to President Obama, John Podesta. In a March 2014 email published by Wikileaks; Dennis J. Amari, Director of Government Relations for Huawei, covertly contacted Obama's top lawyer through Podesta's personal Gmail account.
"I reach out to you today in my current role as Director of Government Relations for Huawei Technologies, Inc. (U.S.A) and yours as Counselor to the President with responsibility for big data and privacy issues. You are no doubt aware of the report on the front page of the New York Times about the penetration of Huawei's equipment and internal servers by the National Security Agency (NSA)," wrote Amari to Podesta.
"In light of the story, I write to request your indulgence for the opportunity to meet with you, informally and perhaps over coffee. Of course, the company is concerned about the veracity of the story and the ongoing concerns of the U.S. government's concern about the company and its ownership, relationship to, and its complicity in cyber-attacks and surveillance by the Chinese government and military," noted Amari.
"Our objective in meeting with you is not to try to persuade you or to be confrontational, by any means. Instead we seek answers about the story and to get your guidance on how we can move forward cooperatively. You may not be in the best position to do the former; still, we seek to your counsel," requested Amari.
"I am using my personal email account rather than my Huawei email address, but would be extremely grateful for a response by whatever means suits you."
This last part, using both his personal email and sending the email to Podesta through his then little known personal account - while Podesta was then employed as top lawyer for President Obama - is both troubling and telling. Podesta actually responded to Amari's email, using his personal Gmail account.
"I recommend you be in touch with Lisa Monaco. She's the right person at the White House to have that conversation with," wrote Podesta.
Monaco was then the Homeland Security Advisor to President Obama, and her main dealings had been supervising the fiasco driven failed attempt to close Guantanamo. Monaco would later, in 2015, become involved in drawing up Cyber-Terrorism policy and was credited with drawing up the first ever network of national security cyber specialist prosecutors.
Of course, all this came at about the same time as the largest ever breach of U.S. government data, over 20 million employee records stolen by the Chinese military. It is not certain that Huawei met with Obama officials but it is clear that after March 2014, the Obama administration seemed to ignore the Chinese company, allowing it to freely do business and not pursuing recommendations such as an end to its operations in the U.S.
There is much to compare and contrast between Huawei and Kapersky. Huawei has sold military communication systems to nations that have threatened to fire nuclear tipped missiles at the U.S. while Kapersky has directly helped the national security of America by tracking a multi-million dollar bank job - that led to Chinese banks laundering stolen money for North Korea. Huawei gave the Taliban a secure air defense system while Kapersky alerted America to North Korean attacks against U.S. defense contractors inside California. Huawei works with Chinese military cyber intelligence units while Kapersky noted that North Korean computer attacks directed at U.S. THAAD anti-missile systems now in South Korea were assisted by Chinese military cyber intelligence units.
The documented case against Huawei; the sales, the covert operations, the insider contacts, are a stark contrast to the operations of Kapersky. I suggest that if the FBI, CIA or NSA has any information other than innuendo and rumor to fling at Kapersky, they do so in public or, perhaps even meet with Kapersky officials to settle the problems. Considering what Kapersky has already done to protect America and her allies, I feel the company deserves a fair shake and a fair hearing.
As for Huawei.... I have one very logical question: Why are we still allowing them to do business in America?
CHARLES R. SMITH
CEO FOUNDER OF SOFTWAR INC.
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