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[INQ] FBI Fears Compromised Network Gear

post #1 of 5
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THE FBI is apparently very concerned that counterfeit networking equipment -- specifically mostly Cisco router and switching gear -- that has been installed in government, military and private network infrastructures over several years might present national security risks.

The FBI's fears are outlined in a Powerpoint presentation obtained by Above Top Secret. Briefly, the US national security establishment is afraid that either Chinese government agents or Chinese hackers, or both, might have hard to find if not undetectable back-doors into supposedly high security government, military and critical infrastructure networks, and might have had for years.

The problem stems from the practice of government and private procurement offices buying equipment from lowest bidders. Since computer and networking equipment vendors such as Cisco and others often don't sell direct, but rather through layers of distributors and resellers, and procurement processes might have multiple levels of subcontractors, both incentives and opportunities exist for suppliers to deliver counterfeit equipment either knowingly or unknowingly.

As the presentation makes clear, the FBI as well as rest of the US intelligence establishment is fairly freaked out about the possibilities raised by finding out that there's complicated but counterfeit networking equipment, manufactured in China rather than in California, installed in many places in a lot of sensitive US network infrastructures.

A detailed discussion about why this situation might be of legitimate concern to those charged with overseeing US national security is available, so we won't reiterate that here; if you're interested, you might go read that at your leisure.

However, the FBI's high state of alarm about all this does seem perhaps a bit overblown. The Chinese are used to counterfeiting Western consumer goods and high technology products just to make a few yuan wherever they can. One may almost say that the US and other countries have in effect collaborated to train up Chinese industry to do just that by buying their low cost products and occasionally looking the other way about, er... inconvenient legal restrictions.

After all, much of the counterfeit equipment is actually detectable because it is cheaply manufactured. If a Chinese intelligence agency really wanted to place a back-door into a piece of equipment in a sensitive US government, military or critical infrastructure networking nexus, it would likely buy a real Cisco router card and replace just a few critical components, making the stealth substitution virtually undetectable. More likely, the counterfeiters are just into it for money.

The FBI shouldn't get its knickers in too much of a twist over all this, recalling that old J. Edgar Hoover wore women's silk knickers that were made in China. µ
This is basically a related article to the news posts last week about hacked hardware and CPUs. It can happen, if it hasn't yet.
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post #2 of 5
I swear they're preparing to invade.....it's only a matter of time......as soon as their population density gets too high.....they'll come across the Pacific

This is troublesome though. I wonder if their is a way to 'leak test' the network if the hardware is hacked.....would they ever be able to tell? Would they hack the firmware to send packet logs to their servers or something?
Scary stuff....
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post #3 of 5
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Originally Posted by binormalkilla View Post
I swear they're preparing to invade.....it's only a matter of time......as soon as their population density gets too high.....they'll come across the Pacific

This is troublesome though. I wonder if their is a way to 'leak test' the network if the hardware is hacked.....would they ever be able to tell? Would they hack the firmware to send packet logs to their servers or something?
Scary stuff....
Why would they need to physically invade? Just continue to steal all the technology... like they are today. US spends $300B in R&D, China just needs to spend $1B in ways of stealing it.
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post #4 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by DuckieHo View Post
Why would they need to physically invade? Just continue to steal all the technology... like they are today. US spends $300B in R&D, China just needs to spend $1B in ways of stealing it.
True......
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post #5 of 5
Rome is Burning.
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