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Andy Purdy, CSO for Huawei USA, believes the US needs to be more active in the development of global security standards rather than being aloof.
"The US has fundamentally dropped the ball when it comes to participation in global security standards," Purdy told The Register. "We need really strong standards and the US should be a major player."
Instead of working with China and other technologically sophisticated nations, the US under the Trump administration took a confrontational stance. Huawei, a China-based global telecom conglomerate, suffered during this period and the mistrust laid bare during those years lingers.
So it's perhaps not surprising that Purdy, as an executive with the company's US subsidiary, believes the US made the wrong move by erecting trade barriers and shunning Huawei.
"I don't think the US realizes it, but I think the US made a colossal mistake in imposing the export controls to basically drive China to accelerate the chance when they'll create an alternative to what the semiconductors in the US can do," he said.
But Purdy is more focused on advocating for cooperation than assessing the effect of trade barriers on China's tech sector. He went so far as to describe an encounter at a security conference last year where he asked a top US intelligence official about the possibility of agency personnel visiting Huawei facilities to evaluate security practices. The official replied that the agency does not have the authority to do so because Huawei is not a US company tied to the US defense industrial base.
Citing discussions with other security professionals to the effect that you have two choices – develop a security protocol that eliminates the advantage nation states have for intelligence gathering or accept that you're not really going to have security – Purdy said he disagreed.
"I don't believe that," he said. "Nation states – US and China in particular, Israel and a couple others – are going to have the ability to spy, all around the world."
"But I think we need to learn some lessons and it looks like the Biden administration is taking some steps in the right direction from the recent attacks on SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange, and to a lesser extent the ransomware attacks. They all show the vulnerability of everything."
These attacks, though attributed to nation states, he said, involved trusted suppliers, so the old assumptions no longer work.
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