A better reason not to use Huawei routers: Code from the '90s

Conspiracy theories aside, Huawei appears to be only just catching up on the importance of security, a researcher says

Security researcher Felix "FX" Lindner has a more compelling reason to steer clear of routers from Huawei Technologies than fears about its ownership.

While the company blasted for its opaque relationship with China's government in a U.S. intelligence report released Monday, a bigger worry for some is what's inside its routers.

"The code quality is pretty much from the '90s," said Lindner, who has analyzed the software inside Huawei's home and enterprise routers, and runs Recurity Labs, a security consultancy, in Berlin.

Lindner will speak on Thursday at the Hack in the Box security conference in Kuala Lumpur and discuss some of the vulnerabilities he and a fellow researcher disclosed earlier this year along with an overview of Huawei's security.

When Lindner began looking at Huawei's routers, the company didn't have a prominent product security team, Lindner said. But since he and colleague Gregor Kopf detailed vulnerabilities in the firmware of Huawei's AR18 series routers, which are meant for homes, and its AR29 series routers, intended for small enterprises, at the Defcon conference in July, "they seem to be trying to ramp up product security in a visible way right now," he said.

Lindner's conclusion comes as Huawei is contesting a blistering report released this week by the U.S. House of Representatives' Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The report alleges that Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE, pose a threat to U.S. infrastructure and postulates their equipment could be secretly modified by Chinese intelligence agencies.

The accusations contained in the report are broad and unspecific. Lindner said the report is "lacking truth in data," which is exactly why he tears apart millions of lines of router code looking for security problems. With Huawei, he's found plenty.

"I'm somewhat in support of what the report says, not for the reasons the report says but simply because of quality assurance," Lindner said. "I'd rather have Cisco build government networks than Huawei, not because Huawei is Chinese, but because in comparison, Cisco has higher-quality devices."

After the vulnerabilities were detailed at Defcon, Huawei said it has rigorous security practices and follows industry best practices.

Still, it is possible that even a simple coding mistake could leave Huawei vulnerable to accusations of working with Chinese intelligence. Lindner said it is very difficult to figure out what is a "backdoor" in code, or a way get inside a system.

For example, if security researchers discover an engineer account that wasn't deleted before router code was finalized, it could give ammunition to critics that the company was in collusion with other interested parties.

"It's hard to argue with a root shell," Lindner said.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?