Who’s afraid of Huawei? Right now, everyone is. Does anyone really know why?
Since 2017, the US has dealt continuous blows against the Chinese company. More than two years later, the war is still in full swing. Both sides have fired multiple salvos against the other. Still, despite the conflict’s longevity, most people are not really sure what’s happening.
Why are they fighting? Should we stay away from Huawei? Is it time to get rid of our Huawei devices as soon as possible? Should we really fear for our cybersecurity?
For ordinary consumers, the entire Huawei debacle is mired in political lingo and endless controversy. It’s time to clear the air. What’s up, Huawei?
How did this all begin?
Let’s go back to where it all started. In late 2017, American lawmakers reviewed the businesses of ZTE, another Chinese tech company. Soon after, the investigation unveiled a flurry of shady business deals involving Iran. By law, companies operating in the US are not allowed to communicate with blacklisted countries including North Korea and Iran. Naturally, the violation caused monumental sanctions against ZTE. The US banned ZTE from American soil — effectively, the same ban on Huawei today.
At this time, Huawei was just a moderately innocent passerby stuck between two fighting giants. At most, Huawei was accused of spying on its customers. American lawmakers proposed a boycott of Huawei’s products. The proposal drew from the emerging rise of Sinophobia. Still, at the time, the US government’s eyes were firmly on ZTE.
In its infancy, the Huawei-ZTE issue was a product of a small fear. It still hadn’t affected everyone. In fact, US President Donald Trump even tried to save both companies from utter destruction. Both companies enjoyed a reprieve from America’s ire. However, this was short-lived.
In a surprising about-face, Trump started his controversial trade war against China. The American leader abandoned his salvific efforts. Instead, he adopted an incredibly aggressive push against Chinese companies. Unsurprisingly, ZTE already crumbled from the initial push, leaving Trump without a company to make an example out of.
Trump set his sights on Huawei, the world’s second largest smartphone maker. His weapon: the same ban meant for ZTE. His motive: potential cybersecurity issues. This time, America means business. Recently, Trump finally pulled the trigger, enacting a total ban against Huawei on American soil. However, instead of just the US, Trump has been lobbying for a similar ban on other countries. Since then, Huawei has suffered a world of hurt.
What does the ban mean?
Naturally, a “total ban” sounds daunting. Banning Huawei smells like certain doom for the tech giant but what does the ban really mean?
When enforced, Huawei can no longer deal with American companies. To Huawei’s dismay, the tech maker uses a fair number of American components in its products. Most notably, Huawei’s smartphones come with Google’s Android. The ban will prevent Huawei from using the operating system going forward. On paper, this is a huge deal. Android remains the world’s biggest operating system. A lot of consumers trust Android. Huawei is losing a massive chunk of its package with the loss.
As if that wasn’t enough, Facebook — and its slew of apps — have withdrawn from Huawei’s products. The company’s smartphones will no longer have Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp installed out of the box. The threat is becoming real.
It’s not looking good for the Chinese company. Huawei is slowly being dismembered. Faced with an army of bans, it’s natural to worry about Huawei. Worst case scenario, Huawei will become a mere shadow of its former self, devoid of the components that helped its recent success.
Should we really worry, though?
Not just yet. Right now, Huawei is enjoying a temporary reprieve. Soon after the initial ban, the American government granted the company a three-month extension. Until around the end of August, Huawei can still operate with its current partnerships. Except Facebook, its devices will still ship with the same components we love. At least for the near future, Huawei is safe.
In the meantime, Huawei is hunting for adequate alternatives for its failing parts. This means a new operating system, new chips, and likely an entirely new package. To its credit, Huawei’s development team is working around the clock. Only a month removed from ground zero, they are already promising optimistic developments for the future. Huawei remains confident in their future, launching a bevy of new phones amidst the controversy.
Likewise, some American companies are also lamenting the loss of business. Before the ban, Huawei was a loyal customer, delivering American components to a massive global audience. They aren’t happy with Trump’s ban. For one, Google has publicly defended Huawei. According to them, Huawei’s — and subsequently, the world’s — cybersecurity standards will collapse without a collaboration between international companies. With Android, Google can act as Huawei’s checks and balances against potential cybersecurity threats from malicious forces. If anything, Huawei still has its share of public defenders.
Most importantly, Trump still has the power to reverse the ban before the 90-day extension runs out. If China and the US reach a meeting point, all might go back to normal. Though uncertain, it’s too early to give up on Huawei just yet.
What will Huawei 2.0 look like?
Unfortunately, Huawei’s future is muddled with uncertainty. This includes any potential iterations in the future. As far as we know, Huawei isn’t bleeding from the multitude of losses. The company has reinforced its Kirin chipsets. Further, they are developing their own dedicated operating system codenamed Ark OS.
Other than that, there’s not much to go on. Speculatively, the biggest changes will come from its app supports. If Google leaves, Huawei will be left without the Play Store’s support and security. The Chinese company will have to rely on its own native software to power their phones. Unfortunately, an all-Chinese ecosystem is less than ideal for most. In fact, having one might even justify the American Sinophobia. But again, it’s all up in the air.
I have a Huawei phone. Should I just sell it?
No, you still shouldn’t. The grey market is already doubling down against the onslaught of Huawei returns. If you don’t know a willing contact, finding a buyer will be difficult. If you do find one, you’ll receive only a mere fraction of what you paid for.
At its current iteration, Huawei’s phones are still on top. They are a delight to hold and use, and if anything, have challenged its competitors to offer better value to consumers over the years. Right now, it’s best to play the long game. Wait and see what happens. If anything, Huawei — and its official partners — already has an insurance policy in place. Several retailers have declared a 100 percent refund policy in countries like Singapore. If Google cuts the cord, Huawei users can get their money back.
Similarly, Google has promised Android Q support for existing Huawei handsets. Just this week Huawei also announced the rollout of Android-based EMUI 9.1 to older models. If you already own one, a Huawei phone shouldn’t be an immediate cause for panic.
So, should we really be worried about Huawei?
Understandably, uncertainty isn’t an ideal for everyone. Huawei’s troubles are an excruciating thorn for both businesses and consumers alike. Switching to another brand is a natural solution against the company’s shaky future. However, if you’re looking at the silver lining, worrying is likely a premature reaction. If you’re not a Huawei user, the controversies shouldn’t affect you. If you’re already a Huawei user or looking to buy a Huawei device, it will likely pay off to play a longer strategy. After all, Huawei devices are still some of the best smartphones you can buy on the market.
Editor’s Note: Looks like we really shouldn’t worry after all. Not even an entire day has passed since this article was originally published but Huawei no longer banned in the US. Rejoice, Huawei users!
Huawei praises American technology, reevaluates own lineup
In rare public letter
For a while now, Huawei has stayed silent following the recent slew of American bans. However, amid the silence, the Chinese company has suffered endless misery in the hands of the Trump administration. Now, under a new president, Huawei might finally get a well-deserved reprieve. In a rare public address, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei praises American technology and is reevaluating his own product lineup.
In the public letter, written sometime in June last year and reported by Reuters, Ren called out the Trump administration’s actions for creating “a great mismatch between [Huawei’s] strategy and [their] abilities.” The heavily restrictive policies have, in turn, forced Huawei to reevaluate their lineup, including cutting some products and some staff.
Since the letter was penned last year, Huawei’s cost-cutting might have already come to pass after selling Honor away. The company hasn’t eradicated much of its product lineup, though. Huawei is still planning to launch its tentpole series soon.
Despite criticizing Trump’s actions, Ren also praised the caliber of American technology as a “beacon of technology” and something to be emulated. The public praise makes the timing a bit conspicuous. There is a possibility that Huawei is trying to court the Biden administration into laxer policies going forward. Before the Trump administration ended, the ex-president landed a farewell blow, reportedly revoking some already accepted applications for operating licenses. With a new administration, Huawei is enjoying some renewed hope.
SEE ALSO: Huawei buys 90 patents from BlackBerry
OnePlus and OPPO are merging research departments
A new era for R&D
Everyone knows about the relationship between OPPO and OnePlus. Last year, renowned OnePlus CEO Pete Lau controversially switched sides over to OPPO, despite retaining some form of responsibility with his former company. Both companies have evolved side-by-side for a while. Today, they are taking a step further. Now confirmed by both companies, both companies have merged research departments.
Some rumors about the merge have emerged late last year. However, at the time, the rumors were just that — rumors. Now, it’s 100 percent confirmed.
In a statement sent to Android Authority, a OnePlus spokesperson has confirmed that both companies are integrating their research efforts into OPLUS, an overseeing holding company now led by Lau. Now, both companies are in a joint research partnership with one another.
However, the OnePlus statement also assures users that all involved parties will continue to operate independently despite the partnership. However, given that they are now working together, all companies under the BKK flag can now share new innovations and features with one another.
At the very least, the partnership cements a fact that was formerly known anyway: that OPPO and OnePlus share a strong relationship between themselves. At the moment, no one knows what the partnership will create, but it’s a good sight, at least.
Cybersecurity threats to lookout for in 2021 and beyond
Threats to intelligent edge computing and 5G-enabled devices will increase
Researchers from Fortinet have identified several cybersecurity threats for 2021 that will greatly impact both the consumer and enterprise sector. By 2021, cybersecurity threats on intelligent edge computing and 5G-enabled devices will double as most companies continue to implement remote working schemes.
A new wave of cybersecurity threats will also arise due to advances in computing. These threats have the potential to disrupt a large number of businesses and consumers in the future. Thus, preparation and eventual mitigation are key to stemming the potential disruption by these threats.
Threats on the intelligent edge are on the rise
Intelligent edge computing is more popular than ever thanks to remote work with most employees making use of personal and interconnected devices to access the company network. However, intelligent edge computing presents new threats as cybercriminals exploit these “edges” (i.e. connected IoTs, personal devices) thanks to a decentralized approach by companies.
These threats can run the gamut from ransomware to malware. As intelligent edge computing booms, cybercriminals can specifically target edge devices with malware that could disrupt corporate networks. They can design malware that could understand usage patterns, adapt accordingly, and attack networks with little to no risk of suspicion. Moreover, sophisticated malware may spread through networks to propagate additional attack commands or disrupt more networks and devices.
Ransomware on the rise
This 2021, consumers and businesses should be more concerned with social engineering-based attacks and ransomware. One of the most common forms of social engineering-based attacks is phishing. In phishing, cybercriminals send fake emails supposedly from legitimate entities coercing users into sending their personal information. For example, a user may receive a fake bank email notice warning of impending account closure but contains malicious links instead.
These attacks may even lock users from their personal data, holding them hostage until they pay a hefty amount of cash. Ransomware attacks do just that, affecting not only consumers but also the enterprise sector. As more businesses rely on edge devices for critical operations, the potential for a future ransomware attack rises significantly posing more risks than ever before.
Human lives are also at stake with ransomware attacks that blow out of control. An example of this happened last year when several hospitals across the US were hit by a variant of the Ryuk ransomware. As a result, several hospitals have to transfer their patients to other facilities since their systems cannot perform patient monitoring and other critical operations.
Advances in crypto mining and attacks on satellite-based networks
Bringing artificial intelligence and machine learning could also open up advances in crypto mining. While not inherently bad, cybercriminals can infect consumer devices more easily and gain access to system resources. When abused, crypto mining could potentially impact any device and affect users’ experience.
Meanwhile, network operators should prepare for more advanced attacks as they become reliant on satellite-based systems. Cybercriminals could infect a satellite base station and propagate malware to connected devices. Satellite-based networks could become a conduit for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks in this way.
As an example, a cybercriminal could hijack a base station and inject scripts into other devices. In turn, infected devices could run malicious commands that could disrupt the connection of other networks.
Quantum computing, preparing for present and future threats
Quantum computers are the next big thing in computing, relying on qubits instead of the traditional binary bit present in all devices today. Research in quantum computing has made significant progress over the years, with working quantum computers not too far on the horizon.
Quantum computers, however, could also pose a new problem in the future. In the future, these can break traditional encryption algorithms rendering encryption moot. Fortinet advises businesses to adapt accordingly by using the principles of crypto agility.
In the meantime, businesses can readily adapt to these threats through a careful combination of technology, people, training, and partnerships. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are also key technologies for preparing against and mitigating future cybersecurity threats. Businesses can train AI to spot attack patterns and identify threats even before they become a reality.
Partnerships are also vital in stemming the tide against cybercriminals. The enterprise sector, for example, could partner with law enforcement agencies for information sharing and dismantling of malicious networks.
Cybersecurity threats are here to stay
Connected devices have transformed society by enabling instant communication and richer user experiences. However, it also opens up new threats from cybercriminals willing to exploit and gather sensitive data.
There’s an old adage that says that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The same adage applies all the more in cybersecurity. Threats are here to stay, so consumers and businesses should prepare and mitigate potential impacts as much as possible. Thankfully, it is easy to stay safe and protected by following best practices.
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