(Reuters) To counter Huawei threat, U.S. should consider taking ‘controlling stake’ in Ericsson, Nokia -attorney general

(Reuters) To counter Huawei threat, U.S. should consider taking ‘controlling stake’ in Ericsson, Nokia -attorney general.

I have written about this before:

The danger is clear and present, yet the perception is not universal. A.G. William Barr’s case may not be obvious to everyone. Let’s explore.

Depending upon whether your attitude is young or old, and the expansiveness of your world-view,  you might still be living in ghostly remains of the Second Industrial Revolution.  Historians say it ended around 1914, but it left the idea that what matters can be measured in tons, watts, and British Thermal Units. The time that followed hasn’t been formalized by historians. But it features the increasing immateriality of assets of all kinds.

You can use a modern smartphone without grocking this. On one level, it’s just another plasticky,  blingy thingy that gives you the lights of Petula Clark’s Downtown in your pocket.

Scratch a little deeper and you become a power user. You’ve adapted your life  to interlace with modern design, which these days means GUI (graphical user interface), haptics (touchable responses), and how to make all your gadgets talk to each other. Fluency is regarded as expertise.

There are many more layers to this than there is to steel production. Even the engineers who use Qualcomm prototyping kits aren’t cognizant of FINFET fabrication or LSI design rules.  Where is the center, the high-status-visible symbol of power, wealth, and control?

Formerly, it was the  mainframe computer, synonymous in popular view with IBM, not incidentally a potent symbol to some of U.S. world domination, which were subject to stringent export controls. But all material symbols of value, be they coin, steel, or tech, suffer remorseless deprecation and replacement.

Is there now a penultimate machine that binds together the increasingly immaterial world? Though nothing can replace the centrality of an IBM 360, there are devices that approach this. In place of “installations”, we have the Internet, the network-of-all-things, with an enormous, yet almost invisible physical presence, confined largely to windowless buildings in low-rent locations, seldom seen except by cadres of admins and repair.

Most readers have heard of servers, contained in the vast rows of racks in windowless “farms.” To these we entrust our wealth, knowledge, voices and likenesses. They are styled as vaults, yet easily breached.  China’s hackers have carried much of it off, entire factories,  in the forms of weightless, replicable plans and specs.

Servers, to which the term 5G does not apply,  have global reach, but lack global responsibility. For this, we must look at the routers, the switchboards of the network.

The penultimate machine is the core router. Some pics here. They are impressive, the largest, most complex unitary machines in the Network of All Things. Whoever owns them, by either purchase or hack, owns the Network. By extension, this includes users like you and me.

China has owned us before. (Ars Technica) Strange snafu misroutes domestic US Internet traffic through China Telecom. There is rumor (citation missing) of a much earlier hack, perhaps 20 years ago, to answer a basic question: Who in the U.S. was talking to who? For seven minutes, so the story goes, all U.S. emails were routed through China. This was accomplished by DNS poisoning.

What does this have to with 5G? Perhaps you still have the vague notion that once your voice reaches a cell tower, it travels on a wire. This is false. It travels, with some privilege, as packets of computer data on the same physical network that carries the Internet. With 5G, that fusion will become total.

The same routers that enable 5G enable  backdoor access by the makers, and by extension, the Chinese government. This cannot be mitigated, for reasons discussed in UK Think They Can Mitigate Huawei Risks.

Most of the technological lead of the West, and the democracies, has already been plundered. This time we have an advantage:  the barn door is not quite open, so 5G does not offer the requisite cautionary tale. The past is full of examples.   In 2008, a China firm acquired British IGBT maker Dynex for a pittance. I cringed at the time. (London Times) Has China used British technology to build a railgun?

Yes, they did.  Eleven years later,  that pittance bit us in the ass. The IGBT is a type of power transistor that enables energy weapons of all sorts. The cost of  countering a military that approaches qualitative parity with the U.S. cannot be measured in billions, if at all.

 

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