As we continue to see the rise of globalization—manufacturing moving outside of the US—the question must be asked, “Is the origin of IT hardware important?” After all, with the track record that countries including India and China have pertaining to industrial espionage and the theft of intellectual property, do we want foreign hardware and software to be an integral part of our country’s networks?
And though the answer seems simple enough, the realities of off-shore manufacturing are far from easy to navigate. For instance, when looking at countries such as China, the issue becomes one of politics versus business. On the political side, China is considered to be friend and foe simultaneously. Their political ideology is in many ways in direct conflict with our own beliefs; however, the value obtained by moving manufacturing to the country is in direct correlation with bottom-line profits and success for many US companies. So, how do we separate profit from politics?
One of the more famous—or dare I say infamous—cases of Chinese technology is Huawei. The company has been under investigation for years now, suspected of hiding technological Easter eggs inside their networking equipment designed to spy on Americans and steal their technology. The rationale behind the investigation is that the Chinese government has direct influence over all Chinese companies, and through political power can demand that potential spyware be implanted in devices for nefarious reasons.
Now, I am not one to argue this fact. Those who know me will tell you that I’m highly suspicious of Huawei, and honestly feel that its equipment should not only be investigated, but also not used in US networks.
However, that does beg a greater question. With all of the technology being manufactured in China, the numbers are simply staggering, at what point do we trust or distrust companies that hail from this communist country?
Is it not a fact that Lenovo, for instance, is a Chinese company? What about the chips that go into IBM machines? Then, of course, there are the goods that hit home the most for the average American: our TVs, smart home devices, and most laptops and phones, all hail from Chinese factories.
See where I’m going with this? Yes, there are due-diligence practices that are in place from all of the giants including Apple, Samsung, etc. And it is with relief that we can trust that actual due-diligence practices are being upheld. However, let’s not forget that all due-diligence practices consist of the human factor. The same human factor that manages IT security, for instance. Does everyone still remember the great iCloud leak of 2014?
My point in all of this is once again a realistic take on the technology that manages almost every aspect of our daily lives. Whether it’s computers, servers, networking gear, bank machines and instant tellers, or the digital economy that we all live and thrive in—the need to understand technology and where it comes from is paramount for our collective ongoing success.
Is Huawei a threat? I believe it is. I also believe that others may very well be a threat as well. And though that may be true, I also don’t think that we should all shut down our networks and sport tinfoil hats—let’s not be conspiracy theory crazies.
Simply, it’s more about being a steward of good IT security, being aware of what products we buy and ensuring that the IT community and citizens alike implement their due-diligence practices. By doing so, we can balance politics and success without the fear of losing in either arena.