Huawei and UK National Security

Here we attempt to tackle this topic in isolation and removing the political spin so we can analyse events and possible outcomes just based on the facts.  It does appear the media fascination with this and the divisions it is causing between the UK and US (and others) is diverting attention from the core topic.

In March 2019 the above report was presented to the UK National Security adviser.  It is certainly worth reading, however due to its length we have provided a summary of some of what we believe are the key points.

Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) Oversight Board Annual Report - March 2019

Huawei, Narrowband IoT and 3GPP

Huawei developed a city-aware network using a "one network, one platform, N application" construction model utilising IoT, cloud computing, big data, and other next-generation information and communications technology.  It aims to be one of the world's five largest cloud players in the near future.  Originally Narrowband IoT was a standard developed by 3GPP for mobile phone devices and networks. 

 

3GPP is a 'standards' organisation for developing protocols for mobile telephony most notably 2G, 3G, GPRS and now 5G technology.  In terms of structure, 3GPP is a consortium of seven larger telecommunications firms spread across the USA, China, Europe, Japan and Korea.  These firms are known as Organizational Partners and they in turn can invite market representatives within each group.  The theory is that this creates a forum, or method by which 3GPP can develop consensus views as to where the needs within the sector are and what areas should attract more time and resources.  That is the theory.  So far so good.  At the top of the 3GPP structure is the Project Coordination Group (PCG), which is the highest decision-making body and essentially decides where the resources are directed.  Generally speaking of course, the 'man on the street' is not likely to have heard of the PCG and is certainly not aware of the power such an organisation can command in terms of dictating the direction of communications technology.  From a political perspective, and with National Security in mind, this topic in itself can take up many web pages of analysis.  That will come later, for now the focus is on where we are currently placed from a technological perspective.

This is a phrase and a technology the GP will come to know very well, very soon.  The question is, what is it and is the technology as "shoddy' and poorly constructed as our friend at GCHQ leads us to believe?  Sure, the days of their reverse engineering superiority might now take a back seat to what has been immense R&D investment in recent years, but is the quality of the casing and hardware at Huawei really that bad?  Narrowband is a new low power wide area (LPWA) technology specifically developed for the Internet of Things.  To understand its power and the power of those who control it, one needs to understand more fully what the target or purpose of its design is ....namely  the Internet of Things.  This is after all a balancing act of sorts, a power struggle.  Those seeking greater power from greater control, by providing people with less control of the 'things' in their own life.  Of course the end users (us) will consider the IOT as part of a labour saving process whereby pieces of hardware, software or the processes they create, eventually lead to greater benefits.  There is little doubt this is the case and will continue to be so.  The advances in medical care, agriculture, industry, general living and in fact every aspect of life are profound.  Just as the introduction of the internet was to information collection or AI is to systems and processes.  Generally the most obvious flip side has been the impact on privacy, corruption and fraud and hugely artificial accelerated evolution in society, partly through social media and its off-shoots.  So what will be the 'flip side' to the Internet of Things and therefore, ergo, what will the controllers of narrowband or the next technologies have at their disposal?  Ultimately, if we give up privacy (albeit prompted by religious/political events such as terrorism and the need to control others), and we give in to automation then the next step is the transference of control.  Not a new phenomenon granted, but a pattern we are accustomed to and a game which will inevitably play out further.

Philosophical arguments aside, what are the hard facts and what are we actually facing?  This is not a science based website and the writer is certainly no Oppenheimer, so forgive the simplicity.  The purpose here is to explore the potential areas for abuse and threats to UK National Security as a result of this new technology.  Sometimes, that does require a different perspective which, although built on a solid technological foundations also allows for the role human behaviour, politics and religion (and culture) play in corrupting the technology and innovation.

What is Narrowband NB- IoT?

The original definition of "Narrowband" itself is derived from early radio communication where narrowband describes a channel in which the bandwidth of the message does not significantly exceed the channel's coherence bandwidth.  The coherence bandwidth is simply a measurement of the range of frequencies over which the channel can be considered "flat" i.e 'Narrow'.

This has led on to the development of Narrowband IoT which is a LPWAN or a Low Power Wide Area Network.  The LPWAN in turn is designed to allow longer range communications at a low bit rate among things or objects.  The low power, low bit rate and intended use distinguish this type of network from a wireless WAN which is a "wider" network that is designed to connect users or businesses, and carry more data, using more power.

In essence less is less is long.  Lower bit, lower power more range.  Most importantly however, it is LOW COST.  Put simply then, it means for less investment and resources, with a lower power usage we can communicate at longer ranges and replace the wider area network.  Scientists and tech bods will no doubt shudder at this simplistic definition, but to us normal folk, it really is that simple.

The Project Coordination Group of 3GPP

Huawei developed a city-aware network using a "one network, one platform, N application" construction model utilising IoT, cloud computing, big data, and other next-generation information and communications technology.  It aims to be one of the world's five largest cloud players in the near future.  Originally Narrowband IoT was a standard developed by 3GPP for mobile phone devices and networks. 

 

3GPP (the Third Generation Partnership Project) is a 'standards' organisation for developing protocols for mobile telephony most notably 2G, 3G, GPRS and now 5G technology.  In terms of structure, 3GPP is a consortium of seven larger telecommunications firms (see below) spread across the USA, China, Europe, Japan and Korea.  These firms are known as Organizational Partners and they in turn can invite market representatives within each group.  The theory is that this creates a forum, or method by which 3GPP can develop consensus views as to where the needs within the sector are and what areas should attract more time and resources.  That is the theory.  So far so good.  At the top of the 3GPP structure is the Project Coordination Group (PCG), which is the highest decision-making body and essentially decides where the resources are directed.  Generally speaking of course, the 'man on the street' is not likely to have heard of the PCG and is certainly not aware of the power such an organisation can command in terms of dictating the direction of communications technology.  From a political perspective, and with National Security in mind, this topic in itself can take up many web pages of analysis.  For now, we examine the basic power structure and the reality of what controls the PCG has.

Specifically, the PCG has responsibility for:

  • Determination of overall time-frame and management of overall work progress.

  • Final adoption of work items within the agreed 3GPP scope.

  • Allocation of budgeted human and financial resources to each TSG as provided by Organisational Partners.

  • Allocation of additional voluntary human and/or financial resources to each TSG as provided by Individual Members.

  • Appointment of PCG Chairman

Although certainly points one and two are important, the most fundamental power concerns the allocation of "financial resources" to each TSG.  This instantly begs the questions, what financial resources and where do these resources come from? We will come onto that a little later.

In terms of who is in the PCG and who controls them (at least appears to), the key personnel at the top are elected individuals from a variety of backgrounds, namely;

Chairman                               Wang ZHIQIN      

ViceChairman                        Seiji NISHIOKA

ViceChairman                        Luis Jorge ROMERO

ViceChairman                        Susan MILLER

Secretary                                Adrian SCRASE

The organisations these individuals come from are;

W. Zhiqin  -  CCSA                 

The China Communications Standards Association

 

S. Nishioka  -  ARIB               

The Association of Radio Industries and Businesses

L.R. Romero  -  ETSI             

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute

 

S. Miller  -  ATIS                     

The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions

 

A. Scrase  -  3GPP

3GPP Support                               -

So who are the 'magnificant seven' or the firms that make up the 3GPP.  The seven telecommunications standard development organizations (ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TSDSI, TTA, TTC), are also known as “Organizational Partners” and they provide their members with a stable environment to produce the Reports and Specifications that define 3GPP technologies.

3GPP specifications and studies are contribution-driven, by member companies, in Working Groups and at the Technical Specification Group (TSG) level.  The three TSG's in 3GPP are;

  • Radio Access Networks (RAN),

  • Services & Systems Aspects (SA),

  • Core Network & Terminals (CT) 

These TSGs, meet regularly and come together for their quarterly TSG Plenary meeting, where their work is presented for information, discussion and approval.  Each TSG in turn has a particular area of responsibility for the Reports and Specifications within its own Terms of Reference (Details available in the Specification Groups on the 3GPP website which, for the time being, is currently not working.  Ironically they seem to be having communication and IT issues).

Research is currently being compiled and will be available on the site shortly.  So far, the objective is to simply and succinctly outline the key organisers in the market and draw some lines to connect a few, less than obvious dots.  This will add more texture and layers to what might be an interesting painting....visit soon.

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A Government Department of Virus Safety

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Wuhan conspiracy theories aside, diplomatic traction is the reward.

 

A week or two ago we wrote an article "Conspiracies & Ripples" which focused primarily on conspiracy theories and kicked off with the rather obvious statement that a conspiracy theory is simply a theory without the facts i.e. just a theory.  Within that we highlighted that ‘flavour of the month’ theorist’s delight, the origins of the Coronavirus and its links to Wuhan.  This echoed our views published in February which, as many did, ponder the chances of this remote coincidence maybe actually being true.  Since then there have been swathes of articles on the topic citing all sort of sources and from numerous ‘renowned’ scientists.  We have also recently had the opinions offered by those whose opinions really count, that this virus originating from the labs in Wuhan may not actually be so far-fetched after all.

We do tend to agree, or at least we did.  That was then and this is now and in the world of Politics things move quickly and one does have to look at the reality of the situation.  If there is enough fog between you and your destination, then sometimes the route you take can change, leaving you all sorts of options.  If the objective was originally to circumnavigate through uncertain waters to establish who, what, why and when the virus came about – then that is now lost in the fog.  It is arbitrary.  Now we have something that is far more concrete and tangible to use to our advantage – we have uncertainty.  We now have enough debate and conspiracy to render the findings of the scientists open to interpretation.  And that… is a diplomat’s dream come true.   This particular carcass will feed many and although the WHO will go in, on the ground, and no doubt find yet more uncertainty…it really is irrelevant.  You will certainly not find individual government’s chomping at the bit to send their representatives into Wuhan anytime soon, and even if they did, why?  Wuhan is not some sleepy suburb in leafy Northamptonshire… it is in China.  Whatever was there has long gone, if indeed it was ever even there.  So perhaps it would be wise to assume that at least for the next few decades this is a conspiracy that will never find out those salient facts. 

Now, listening to the scientists, there is an overwhelming urge to say, “shush now”.  Step back ladies and gentlemen and look at the bigger picture at play.  Nobody is actually interested whether or not the virus started in Wuhan, intentionally or not.  As long as it is open to debate, it is far more valuable.  The scientists have debated at length and argued, but there is still no unequivocal proof either way that satisfies all parties…and why could that be?  Scientific fact is not open to debate or questioning, that is a given.  However, to say Science is correct, is not true.  That is because Science has Scientists, and Scientists are human beings who in turn are fallible and motivated by many many other factors.  In China for example, one might say that scientific fact is exactly what they want it to be.  Indeed, who is to say it ends in China.

 

So why is uncertainty such a blessing in this case?  It provides an additional bargaining chip and a weapon in the armoury for all Governments to now use against the Chinese.  Maybe on the other side of the fence their own initial conspiracy theory that a foreign Government (the US) planted the virus in their midst, is being written about in their own press.  Or maybe not. The fact is it is a safe bet to assume that no body will ever know.  There will be no compensations or admissions of guilt in this case sadly…however the capillaceous network that is politics, diplomacy and economic negotiations will be the real beneficiaries.

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