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Huawei sales up, but growth slows under virus, US pressure

Inside Telecom Staff

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Huawei

Chinese tech giant Huawei, one of the biggest makers of smartphones and switching equipment, said Friday its revenue rose 9.9% in the first nine months of this year, but growth decelerated in the face of U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

Huawei Technologies Ltd. gave no sales figure for the most recent quarter ending in September, but growth for the first three quarters was down from the 13.1% reported for the first half of the year.

Huawei is struggling with U.S. sanctions that cut off its access to most American components in a feud with Beijing over technology and security. The White House says Huawei is a threat and might facilitate Chinese spying, which the company denies.

Washington also is tightening curbs on access to U.S. markets or technology for other Chinese tech companies including telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp., video service TikTok and messaging app WeChat.

The conflict has fueled fears the global market might be dividing into competing U.S. and Chinese technology spheres with incompatible standards. Industry analysts warn that would slow down innovation and raise costs.

Executives have warned Huawei’s smartphone and network equipment sales would be affected. The company has launched smartphones based on its own chips and other components and says it is removing U.S. technology from its products.

On Thursday, the company unveiled its latest smartphone, the Mate 40, based on Kirin 9000 chips developed by Huawei.

Sales in the first nine months of 2020 rose to 671.3 billion yuan ($100.4 billion), Huawei reported. It said net profit was 8%, down from the first half’s 9.2% margin.

The company gave no details of its smartphone shipments. Sales outside China have weakened because its handsets no longer come preloaded with Google’s popular music, maps and other features. But sales in China, where Huawei phones already used local alternatives, have grown sharply.

Huawei’s global market share in smartphones rose to 19.6% in the three months ending in June, up from 17.7% a year earlier, according to Canalys. That was driven by strength in its home market, where Huawei had a 51% market share and sales rose 32% to 14.5 million handsets.

Huawei is owned by its Chinese employees who make up about 60% of its global workforce of 194,000. It began reporting financial results a decade ago in an attempt to appear more transparent and mollify foreign security fears.

BEIJING (AP) — By JOE McDONALD AP Business Writer.

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Tech firms say there’s little doubt Russia behind major hack

Associated Press

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Tech firms say there's little doubt Russia behind major hack

Leading technology companies said Tuesday that a months long breach of corporate and government networks was so sophisticated, focused and labor-intensive that a nation had to be behind it, with all the evidence pointing to Russia.

In the first congressional hearing on the breach, representatives of technology companies involved in the response described a hack of almost breathtaking precision, ambition and scope. The perpetrators stealthily scooped up specific emails and documents on a target list from the U.S. and other countries.

“We haven’t seen this kind of sophistication matched with this kind of scale,” Microsoft President Brad Smith told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Smith said investigators estimate at least 1,000 highly skilled engineers would have been required to develop the code that hijacked widely used network software from Texas-based SolarWinds to deploy malware around the world through a security update.

“We’ve seen substantial evidence that points to the Russian foreign intelligence agency, and we have found no evidence that leads us anywhere else,” Smith said.

U.S. national security officials have also said Russia was likely responsible for the breach, and President Joe Biden’s administration is weighing punitive measures against Russia for the hack as well as other activities. Moscow has denied responsibility for the breach.

Officials have said the motive for the hack, which was discovered by private security company FireEye in December, appeared to be to gather intelligence. On what, they haven’t said.

At least nine government agencies and 100 private companies were breached, but what was taken has not been revealed.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that it would be “weeks, not months,” before the U.S. responds to Russia.

“We have asked the intelligence community to do further work to sharpen the attribution that the previous administration made about precisely how the hack occurred, what the extent of the damage is and what the scope and scale of the intrusion is,” Psaki said. “And we’re still in the process of working that through now.”

FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia told the Senate that his company has had nearly 100 people working to study and contain the breach since they detected it, almost by accident, in December and alerted the U.S. government.

The hackers first quietly installed malicious code in October 2019 on targeted networks, but didn’t activate it to see if they could remain undetected. They returned in March and immediately began to steal the login credentials of people who were authorized to be on the network so they could have a “secret key” to move around at will, Mandia said.

Once detected, “they vanished like ghosts,” he said.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this was planned,” the security executive said. “The question really is where’s the next one, and when are we going to find it?”

Government agencies breached include the Treasury, Justice and Commerce departments, but the full list has not been publicly released. The president of Microsoft, which is working with FireEye on the response, said there are victims around the world, including in Canada, Mexico, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

The panel, which also included Sudhakar Ramakrishna, the CEO of SolarWinds who took over the company after the hack occurred, and George Kurtz, the president and CEO of CrowdStrike, another leading security company, faced questions not just about how the breach occurred but also about whether hacking victims need to be legally compelled to be forthcoming when they have been breached. Even now, three months after the breach was disclosed, the identity of most victims remains unknown.

Congress has considered in the past whether to require companies to report that they have been the victim of a hack, but it has triggered legal concerns, including whether they could be held liable by clients for the loss of data.

U.S. authorities are also considering whether to give additional resources and authority to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency or other agencies to be able to take a more forceful role in working to prevent future breaches.

Another measure that has been considered is to create a new agency, like the National Transportation Safety Board, that could quickly come in and evaluate a breach and determine whether there are problems that need to be fixed.

Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the most prominent voices on cyber issues in the Senate, warned that the U.S. must first make sure that government agencies breached in this incident have taken the required security measures.

“The impression that the American people might get from this hearing is that the hackers are such formidable adversaries that there was nothing that the American government or our biggest tech companies could have done to protect themselves,” said Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. “My view is that message leads to privacy-violating laws and billions of more taxpayer funds for cybersecurity.”


WASHINGTON (AP) — By BEN FOX and ERIC TUCKER Associated Press

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Amnesty International: Hackers attacking Vietnam dissidents

Associated Press

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Amnesty International Hackers attacking Vietnam dissidents

Amnesty International says it has found that a hacking group known as Ocean Lotus has been staging more spyware attacks on Vietnamese human rights activists in the latest blow to freedom of speech in the communist-ruled country.

The human rights group said Wednesday that Amnesty Tech’s Security Lab found evidence of the hacking attempts in phishing emails sent to two dissidents, one in the Philippines and one in Germany.

Cybersecurity firms earlier identified hacking attempts by Ocean Lotus targeting dissidents, governments and companies across Southeast Asia. The hackers are suspected of having ties to Vietnam’s government, which has been cracking down on dissent.

Amnesty urged the Vietnamese government to investigate.

The report said that blogger and pro-democracy activist Bui Thanh Hieu was targeted with spyware at least four times between February 2018 and December 2019. He left Vietnam and has lived in Germany since 2013. It said another blogger based in Vietnam, who was not named due to fears for their safety, was targeted three times last year.

A Philippines-based nongovernmental organization, the Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment, or VOICE, was targeted by hackers in April 2020, the report said.

It said former staff and volunteers for VOICE were harassed, prevented from traveling and had their passports confiscated when they returned to Vietnam.

The Amnesty report also said the hacking efforts involved emails pretending to share an important document with a link to download a file.

An analysis of the phishing emails indicated they were generated by Ocean Lotus, based on the tools and techniques they used, it said. The hacking targets Mac OS, Android and Windows operating systems.

“More recently Ocean Lotus was found to have created fake online media websites based on content automatically gathered from legitimate news websites,” the report said.

Vietnam is one of the handful of the world’s remaining communist single-party states that tolerate no dissent.

Human rights groups have been urging Vietnam to cease its repressive activities towards critics, seen especially in severe punishments of bloggers.

According to the cybersecurity company Volexity, OceanLotus was identified as a Vietnam-based hacking group in 2015. The group is suspected of staging sophisticated, widespread digital surveillance and attack campaigns since 2013 against some Asian countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and many people and groups linked to the media and human rights groups.


BANGKOK (AP) — The Associated Press

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Federal judge says California can enforce net neutrality law

Associated Press

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Federal judge says California can enforce net neutrality law

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that California can for the first time enforce its tough net neutrality law, clearing the way for the state to ban internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites and applications that don’t pay for premium service.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in 2018, making California the first state to pass a net neutrality law. Open internet advocates hoped the law would spur Congress and other states to follow suit. The Trump administration quickly sued to block the law, which prevented it from taking effect for years while the case was tied up in court.

The Biden administration dropped that lawsuit earlier this month. But in a separate lawsuit, the telecom industry asked a federal judge to keep blocking the law. On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez denied their request, allowing California to begin enforcing the law.

California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco and the author of the law, called the ruling “a huge victory for open access to the internet, our democracy and our economy.”

“The internet is at the heart of modern life. We all should be able to decide for ourselves where we go on the internet and how we access information,” Wiener said. “We cannot allow big corporations to make those decisions for us.”

In a joint statement, multiple telecom industry associations said they will review the judge’s decision “before deciding on next steps.” They urged Congress to set net-neutrality rules for the country rather than relying on states to come up with regulations on their own.

“A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and deter innovation, just as the importance of broadband for all has never been more apparent,” read the statement from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, ACA Connects, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and USTelecom.

California’s law was spurred by the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 decision to repeal net-neutrality rules that applied nationwide. The telecom industry fought hard against the bill, arguing it would discourage companies from investing in faster internet speeds.

But advocates say without the rules, it would make it easy for internet providers to favor their own services by making it harder for customers to access their competitors’ websites and apps.

The law seeks to ban internet providers from slowing down customers’ data streams based on the content they are viewing. It also bars providers from speeding up access to websites willing to pay extra for special treatment.

“The ability of an internet service provider to block, slow down or speed up content based on a user’s ability to pay for service degrades the very idea of a competitive marketplace and the open transfer of information at the core of our increasingly digital and connected world,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — By ADAM BEAM Associated Press

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