Information Warfare: India Bans Chinese Cell Phones

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May 2, 2010: Fearful of spyware embedded in hardware and software, India has banned the importation of cell phone equipment from major Chinese manufacturers (Huawei, ZTE, Acelink and UT Starcom). These firms have come to dominate the Indian market, largely because of low prices and acceptable quality. But Indian intelligence officials, without revealing any details, pushed for the ban. There had been an earlier ban on cell phones themselves, but the new ban involves also Chinese central office gear, which runs the cell phone networks. In theory, Chinese intelligence could have this equipment modified with secret (but not impossible to find) features that allowed Chinese operatives to gain secret access to Indian cell phone networks, either from China or inside India. No one has identified or revealed such features.

The China firms have offered to do whatever it takes to get shipments going again. And this may have more to do with spreading around some bribes in the right places, than with actual spyware hidden in Chinese equipment.

 


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