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U.S. Intelligence is Paranoid That China is Spying Through Smartphones

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There has been a lot of discussion lately on whether or not devices should come with some kind of “backdoor” measure so that the government can access iPhones belonging to suspects in criminal cases.  Last year, the FBI wanted to force Apple into this kind of arrangement, and now we have a different scenario to deal with.  Six top US intelligence chiefs are saying that they do not trust smartphones made by Huawei and ZTE.  These are both Chinese smartphone makers, and their argument is that they could be used to spy on US citizens.

This is extremely ironic because they believe that the Chinese government is putting backdoors into these devices that would then allow them to collect data from U.S. citizens.  This is the world we’re living in?  What’s good for the goose, isn’t good for the gander in this case.  That’s an old saying, but essentially what should be good for one, should also be good for another.  In this case, the U.S. is saying – we want a backdoor, but don’t buy those Chinese phones because they’re going to have a backdoor to your information.

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This is also coming at an extremely interesting time since Bill Gates has come forward with his opinion on backdoors, which is that they should be granted.  He believes that tech companies like Apple should create tools that would be able to decrypt an iPhone involved in an active investigation. Which is what the government has been asking for all along.  But the big question is whether or not they should? I mean, there are pros and cons on both sides, but who is right?

The Senate Intelligence Committee has said that they would advise Americans not to buy products or services from Huawei and ZTE.  The list of agency heads making this recommendation includes the chiefs of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the director of national intelligence. So that’s a lot of people.  Do they have actual intelligence that suggests this might already be happening?  Or is this a case of someone being paranoid?

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FBI Director, Chris Wray had the following to say:

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.  That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. “It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Again – is this something they know, or something that they’re trying to prevent in advance of?  Either way, the argument is clear.  But I’m concerned that they’re boycotting a company for no reason.  Think about what this could do to the company itself?  Sure, maybe their sales will survive without U.S. sales.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that the U.S feels threatened for some reason.  Is it perceived or is it an actual threat?  I’m a bit on the fence about whether or not they should be taking perceived threats seriously because they could lead to something bad.  But at the same time, it feels a bit like they are actually just paranoid.

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