Huawei reshuffles its global deck

Chinese vendor Huawei is reportedly doubling down on Italy while scaling back what little presence it has in the US even further.

Thomas Miao, Huawei’s Italian boss, announced the company will invest over a billion bucks a year for the next three years in Italy, according to a Reuters report. No such pledge can be made without a few strings attached, however, and Miao apparently called on the Italian state to ensure a level playing field for Huawei in the country, though its ‘golden power’ that allows it to poke its nose into the telecoms sector if it feels like it.

We’re told Italy recently augmented this power in apparent response to security concerns over the involvement of Huawei and ZTE in the country’s 5G network and Miao wants to make sure those powers will be used with equal vigour towards Ericsson and Nokia too. There were no overt conditions attached to the investment, but it seems clear that it might suddenly disappear if the Italian political environment deteriorates for Huawei.

Meanwhile the WSJ reports that Huawei plans extensive layoffs in the U.S. Specifically this refers to some Huawei research labs called Futurewei, that employ around 850 people. The source is the usual people who reckon they know a thing or two, but it’s totally believable considering how hostile the political climate in the US is towards Huawei. Well-known hedge fund manager Kyle Bass seemed to welcome the news on Twitter.

Having said that Reuters, once more, reports that the US government is set to start some limited trade between US companies and Huawei within weeks. This development comes in the face of considerable domestic opposition to President Trump’s minor concessions and serves to further illustrate what a good move it will probably be for Huawei to clear off from that country entirely.

‘No technical grounds’ to ban Huawei says UK Parliament committee

Chair of the Science and Technology Committee in the UK, Norman Lamb, has stated there is not enough technical evidence to ban Huawei and is demanding a final decision by the end of August.

In a letter written to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Lamb has demanded a conclusion to the Supply Chain Review which has staggered the progress of 5G networks in the UK. Many in the industry have become increasingly frustrated with the state of purgatory which has loomed over the UK telecoms industry, and now the influential Science and Technology Committee has had enough.

“Following my Committee’s recent evidence session, we have concluded that there are no technical grounds for excluding Huawei entirely from the UK’s 5G or other telecommunications networks,” said Lamb.

“The benefits of 5G are clear and the removal of Huawei from the current or future networks could cause significant delays. However, as outlined in the letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we feel there may well be geopolitical or ethical considerations that the Government need to take into account when deciding whether they should use Huawei’s equipment.”

This is the interesting aspect of the letter to Wright. Lamb is effectively telling DCMS and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to hurry up and make a decision, but not to come to a conclusion too quickly as there are ethical and political considerations to account for. It’s a bit of a mixed message, but a deadline is perhaps overdue for this saga.

The message from Lamb is relatively simple; there are no technical grounds to ban Huawei. Quoting the NSCS’ assumption that 100% secure is impossible, suggesting a lack of concrete evidence against Huawei espionage, reasserting legal obligations placed on telcos to maintain security and pointing towards the international nature of supply chains nowadays are all points made by Lamb to suggest Huawei should be allowed to contribute to network infrastructure.

There are of course concessions make in the letter. Lamb is suggesting Huawei should be excluded from contributing to the network core, while there should also be a mechanism introduced to limit Huawei should it fail on-going competency tests and security assessments, but the message seems to be focused on the idea that Huawei is no more of a security threat than any other organization.

“Supply chains for telecommunications networks have been global and complex,” the letter states. “Many vendors use equipment that has been manufactured in China, so a ban on Huawei equipment would not remove potential Chinese influence from the supply chain.”

Another interesting point raised by Lamb is the legal obligation which has been placed on the telcos to ensure security. Communications infrastructure is a key component to today’s society, but the telcos are the ones who will suffer some of the greatest consequences for poor risk mitigation and due diligence. None of the telcos have raised concerns of an increased security risk from Huawei, and this should be taken as some of the most important evidence when considering the fate of the Chinese vendor.

Ultimately, this is action from the Government. It might kick-off some bickering between the parties (Lamb is a Liberal Democrat) and between departments, but finally someone is forcing DCMS and NSCS into a decision. It seems Lamb is not concerned about the distraction of a party leadership contest or Brexit, he simply wants an answer by the end of August.

Interestingly enough, this letter also forces DCMS into basing the outcome of the Supply Chain Review on politics. By stating there are no technical grounds for a ban, should Wright and his team want to exclude Huawei it will have to be done for another reason. Lamb has asked DCMS to consider the ethical and political weight of a decision, as well as the impact it might have on relationships with allies.

This is now a very difficult decision for DCMS. Lamb has seemingly taken technical considerations off the table; any ban would have to be political.

Cybersecurity is becoming impossible without AI – Capgemini report

Security is certainly a topic which is top of the agenda for almost everyone in the technology world, but it is quickly becoming apparent it will be impossible without AI.

The concept of 100% secure has now been rightfully banished and now more people are waking up to the idea any form of security is going to be impossible without artificial intelligence.

According to a new report from the Capgemini Research Institute, 69% of respondents believe they will not be able to respond to cyberattacks without the use of AI. Such is the velocity, volume and variety of threats thrown towards businesses nowadays, there will never be enough budget or hours in the day for humans to effectively deal with the problem in its entirety.

“Organizations are facing an unparalleled volume and complexity of cyber threats and have woken up to the importance of AI as the first line of defence,” said Geert van der Linden, Cybersecurity Business Lead at Capgemini Group.

“As cybersecurity analysts are overwhelmed, close to a quarter of them declaring they are not able to successfully investigate all identified incidents, it is critical for organizations to increase investment and focus on the business benefits that AI can bring in terms of bolstering their cybersecurity.”

The report follows another interesting bit of research from enterprise ISP Beaming earlier in the week. Beaming suggested the number of attacks levelled at British businesses during Q2 increased 179% year-on-year. These firms were effectively facing a threat every 50 seconds on average over the three-month period.

The Capgemini research suggests investments in security AI will increase dramatically over the next twelve months. During 2020, 48% of decision makers suggested investments in this area will increase by a third. 73% are currently testing use cases for AI in cybersecurity, while 63% intend to deploy AI security in 2020 to bolster defences.

And while it might seem like a grave conversation to have right now, the situation is only going to become worse. With the introduction of 5G, more products and services moving to the cloud, consumers adopting more connected devices and IOT set to boom over the next couple of years, the perimeter is expanding. Threats exist today, but exposure to the dark corners of the web is going to become much more apparent.

In China, the government controls everything except the 100,000 hackers attacking Western targets every day

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Telecoms Consultant John Strand ponders the contradictions in Chinese cyber security policy.

It is well known that the Chinese government has the country on lockdown: people are monitored 24/7 with millions of CCTV cameras; the “Great Firewall of China” blocks access to unapproved content and tracks attempts to circumvent it; municipal party leaders keep tabs on citizens. All networks and equipment are operated by companies either owned by the government or are beholden to them. All surveillance data is aggregated into a unified system of social credits intended to standardize the assessment of the social and financial reputations of individuals and firms.

People who don’t live up to the Chinese government standards are sent to “transformation-through-education” or reeducation camps and generally are denied due process to defend their activities, according to Amnesty International. In practice, not a single bit of information moves outside of the government’s purview.

It’s curious then why more cyberattacks originate from China than any other nation. Indeed, if China was so concerned about law and order, they could end these attacks immediately, but they don’t.

The Chinese goal is to get Global domination from telecommunications networks over computers to IOT devices.

China’s expectation is win global domination in 10 key strategic industries by 2025. At the top of the list is information technology and the key products and services associated with AI, IoT, and smart appliances. China’s national champion in this domain is Huawei Technologies Ltd. Huawei’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese military official, is clear about the company’s strategy to deliver not just the equipment that makes up the world’s information networks, but the devices that attach to it for consumer and industrial communications.

Huawei’s 25-year trajectory has been assisted by China’s government ensuring favorable operating conditions as well as a supply of guaranteed contracts to conduct the surveillance state across 1.4 billion Chinese. It’s no surprise that Huawei supplies the telecom infrastructure in Cuba and Venezuela where the Chinese government has close ties to the political leadership and can provide references on how to monitor political opponents.

Chinese hackers are here there and everywhere

What advanced technology China has not been able to develop itself, it appropriates through other methods, whether forced technology transfer or theft. U.S. cybersecurity vendor Cybereason issued a report describing “an ongoing global attack against telecommunications providers that has been active since at least 2017.”  The report concludes the perpetrator is the APT10, an “advanced persistent threat,” and a state-supported Chinese espionage group.

In December 2018, the U.S. government has indicted APT10 members with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  The indictment noted the hackers worked in tandem to steal intellectual and technological information from dozens of commercial and defense technology companies throughout the continental United States.  Additionally, APT 10 is also responsible for the theft of personnel information for 100,000 U.S. Navy personnel.

In Norway, the supplier of finance systems in the cloud Visma saw that Chinese hackers tried to steal client data – Visma is a company that delivers finance systems to hundreds of thousands of companies around the world.

Australian intelligence officials claimed China may have accessed thousands of files and 19 years’ worth of data – to include tax and banking records – on Australian National University students and staff.  Many of ANU’s graduates serve in the country’s intelligence and security agencies.

Symantec unveiled in June how Chinese hackers have attacked satellite and telecommunications infrastructure in the west.

Breaches like these are not new. The Center for Strategic and International Studies identified China as responsible for the greatest number of cyberattacks by any nation over the past dozen years.  It reached this conclusion from examining public data only.  The true depth of China’s efforts – and successes – in penetrating western networks is probably still unknown. Foreign Policy also described China’s Hacker Army in 2010.

One thing is that you use telecommunications networks to monitor people something else is the way you can use computers and the many Internet of Things devices in the future. If a Huawei network is a security threat, then a Lenovo computer or one of the many IOT solutions that Huawei is aiming for may also be a threat in the future.

Cyberhackers are looking for vulnerabilities to exploit, but if you can build products and services with backdoors, the Chinese government has an open road to Western information, technology, and secrets.

Why does the Chinese system stop the many hackers in the country?

There is something to suggest that the Chinese system and the Chinese president Xi Jinping are in control of anything but the many hackers in China. What causes the Chinese government to control almost the entire population, close to those who often try to hack into Western companies and governments’ systems.

If the board of Beijing has the will, there is no doubt that they could easily stop the many Chinese hackers. Some of the most well-known Chinese hacker groups are: APT10, APT1 or Comment Crew, KeyBoy, Honker Union, NCHP or Network Crack Program Hacker Group, Elderwood group etc. Many of these groups have, according to experts, close relations with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese government in general. We suspect that there is a reason why China does not do a serious job of stopping the many Chinese hackers.

Can a contract create security? No.

The fact that the Chinese government and companies like Huawei have not understood how to look at national security in the West has meant that “Made in China” has gained a whole new meaning. In a world where more and more is being digitized, bad experiences have resulted in Western companies and governments not having the same belief in the system in China as you have a few years ago.

When talking to telecommunications companies around the world, many of them respond that the greatest pressure in relation to their use of Chinese equipment does not come from governments but from their business customers who often compete against Chinese companies. Companies that have experienced how their Chinese competitors have stolen their intellectual properties and who have experienced the Chinese spying on them. Many of these companies’ fears relate to things they have experienced on their own body in their own business.

The fear of Chinese networks is not a fear isolated to governments, it is a fear that many large, medium and small companies share with the authorities and with their telecommunications providers.

There has been written and said a lot about Huawei over the past 9 months and about their relationship with the Chinese government. Let’s be honest Huawei uses gigantic resources to influence the press with a story of trusting them and not having the close relationship with the Chinese government that many are talking about.

In recent weeks, Huawei has come up with an offer that they would like to sign a document in which they undertake not to spy. This is probably one of the most grotesque offers I have seen in my business career. I would like to see the CEO of a mobile operator who goes to a board meeting and says that there is nothing to worry about as his government has just entered into an agreement with the Chinese that they must not spy on their customers.

The disclaimer of cyber security is important and ultimately it is not about convincing the telecommunications companies and governments, ultimately it is about business and private customers feel pressured when their data runs through Chinese infrastructure and Chinese devices.

 

John StrandJohn Strand founded Strand Consult in 1994. Its first focus was optimizing the sales process and reducing cost for companies in the IT, Telco and Media industry. John had already built successful consulting company providing sales and marketing services for the Telecom, It, Finance and Publishing sectors. The mobile industry exploded in the 1990s, and Strand Consult grew along with its new clients from the mobile industry, analyzing market trends, publishing reports and holding executive workshops that have helped telecom operators, mobile services providers, technology manufacturers all over the world focus on their business strategies and maximizing the return on their investments.

Matrix themed virus infects 25 million smartphones

A new variant of mobile malware, dubbed ‘Agent Smith’, which re-directs advertising funds to cybercriminals, has been identified and its infected 25 million smartphones already.

Discovered by Check Point, this is a sneaky virus to deal with. Like ‘Agent Smith’ in the Matrix trilogy, the virus has the ability to consume a downloaded app and assume control.

Right now, the user is not being exploited in a direct manner. The presence of the virus does present dangers in terms of eavesdropping or credit fraud, but currently, the cybercriminals are using the virus to collect cash off advertisers through various trusted applications. The application is forced to display more adds than designed with the attackers collecting the additional credits.

“In this case, “Agent Smith” is being used to for financial gain through the use of malicious advertisements,” Check Point said on its blog.

“However, it could easily be used for far more intrusive and harmful purposes such as banking credential theft and eavesdropping. Indeed, due to its ability to hide its icon from the launcher and impersonate existing user-trusted popular apps, there are endless possibilities for this sort of malware to harm a user’s device.”

Check Point estimate that 25 million devices have been infected to date, the majority are in India and other Asia nations, although there have been identified devices in the US, UK and Australia. Although Check Point has not directly stated it, some have suggested the virus can be traced back to Guangzhou, China.

Agent Smith VirusThe virus itself works in three phases. Firstly, the user is encouraged to download a simplistic, free app (usually a minimal function game or sex-app) which contain an encrypted malicious payload. At this point, the malware searches the user’s device for any popular apps on a pre-determined list which can be targets at a later date.

During the second phase, the malicious payload is decrypted into its original form and then abuses several known vulnerabilities without giving any clues to the user. Finally, the malware then attacks the pre-determined applications, extracting the innocent application’s APK file and then patches it with extra malicious modules.

‘Agent Smith’ was first detected in 2016 and the cybercriminals have seemingly been laying the groundwork for a larger attack for some time. It has certainly evolved over this period, and although Check Point has reported the malicious apps to the Google Security team, who is to say there are not more. The danger of ‘Agent Smith’ is that it is incredibly difficult to identify in the first place.

Perhaps this is an oversight in the security world which we will have to address before too long.

As it stands, numerous parties around the world are constantly on the look out for nefarious activity, however, in most cases the assumption is that it will be a state-sponsored attack. This does not seem to be the case here and perhaps why it is very difficult to detect the malware in the first place; everyone is looking for the wrong clues.

In this example, Check Point seem to have caught the suspect firm ahead of time, informing the Google Security team before any genuine damage has been done. That said, 25 million devices is still a substantial number but with the source identified it should be limited.

Smartphone spyware FinSpy is back and thriving

Cybersecurity vendor Kaspersky has reported that FinSpy, a piece of malware that allows private information to be stolen from smartphones, has made a reappearance.

FinSpy spyware is apparently made by German company Gamma Group and sold by its UK sub-division Gamma International to governments and state agencies so that they can spy on their citizens. It has been around for a few years but seems to be experiencing a renaissance, with activity recorded in Myanmar last month.

The recent appearance of FinSpy has brought to light the IOS and Android mobile implants that can install this spyware on mobile devices. This now enables the FinSpy spyware to collect personal information such as contacts, SMS/MMS messages, emails, calendars, GPS location, photos, files in memory, phone call recordings and data from some of the most used messenger services including Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype among others.

The greatest cause for concern is FinSpy’s ability to gain this information even if the phone’s user is running an encryption program. Talking about encryption, FinSpy’s developers have been improving their own encryption to reduce the risk of traceable activity being discovered, the Kaspersky report claims.

“The developers behind FinSpy constantly monitor security updates for mobile platforms and tend to quickly change their malicious programs to avoid their operation being blocked by fixes,” Alexey Firsh, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told Cyberscoop. “We observe victims of the FinSpy implants on a daily basis.”

Kaspersky has also claimed that these implants were detected in almost 20 countries however it’s likely the real number is higher. These new implants appear to be a real threat, with the developers constantly updating the spyware by reducing its trace while improving it to the point where it can break through encryption. FinSpy along with Gamma group are thriving although Kaspersky says it is conducting further investigations to tackle this issue.

US/Huawei saga enters the realm of ‘who knows what going on?’

The US Commerce Department has held a press conference to announce some companies can now trade with Huawei, but no-one knows who, how, what or where.

Speaking at the annual department conference in Washington, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said US companies can now start trading with Huawei, assuming they have had a license approved by his department, which is unlikely to happen, while little guidance has been offered to the criteria on how decisions will be made.

The only clue which we have so far is a reference to ‘national security’. Huawei and its affiliates remain on the ‘Entity List’, though US firms are allowed to do business if it doesn’t compromise national security. What that actually means is anyone’s guess.

The move from the US Commerce Department follows comments from President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Japan. In order to get trade talks back on track, Chinese President Xi Jinping insisted the aggression towards Huawei be ended. This seems to be somewhat of a compromise with a nod to the likely domestic opposition the White House will face.

Immediately after Trump signalled his intentions to let Huawei off the hook, two of the President’s biggest opponents, from opposite sides of the aisle, voiced their disapproval. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has Presidential ambitions, and Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, who consistently undermines the President, both suggested they were going to be hurdles in the pursuit of Huawei relief.

For the moment, the language is still very negative. US suppliers can apply to work with Huawei, but applications will be looked at with refusal at the front of mind. There will have to be proof such business would not compromise security, though it is highly likely the vast majority will be turned down.

“To implement the president’s G20 summit directive two weeks ago, Commerce will issue licenses where there is no threat to US national security,” said Ross during the conference.

“Within those confines, we will try to make sure that we don’t just transfer revenue from the US to foreign firms.”

This seems to be an attempt to keep all parties involved happy. In China, it might look like the White House is trying to relieve pressure on Huawei, while in Congress, Trump seems to be attempting to give the impression he is protecting national security. However, it does paint an incredibly confusing picture.

Ross’ statements seem to ignore the fact that supply chains are now globalised, and it is almost impossible to do business without working beyond domestic shores. Few firms will have any concrete understanding to where they stand either.

For those who have lobbied against the ban, its difficult to see whether this is a win or not. Yes, it is somewhat of a concession, but it might not mean anything ultimately. If the US Commerce Department is going to be stubborn, few suppliers might receive the golden ticket to do business with Huawei. Only time will tell whether this is anything more than ego stroking from Ross.

ZTE gets ahead of the game with cybersecurity centre launch

With Huawei facing scrutiny over its alleged ties to the Chinese Government, it will only be a matter of time before ZTE faces the same questions considering its own, complex ownership structure.

Taking a page from the Huawei playbook, ZTE has officially opened its European Cybersecurity Centre in Brussels, Belgium. The lab will open its doors to current and potential customers, as well as national regulators, to access the external security verification of ZTE’s products, services and processes.

As with the Huawei Cybersecurity Centre, this is a transparency mission to improve the perception of the vendor at a time where Chinese firms are facing increasing scrutiny in the international arena.

“ZTE’s original intention of the Cybersecurity Lab Europe is to provide global customers, regulators and other stakeholders with great transparency by means of verification and communication,” said Zhong Hong, ZTE’s Chief Security Officer.

“The security for the ICT industry cannot be guarded by one sole vendor, or by one sole telecoms operator. ZTE is willing to play an important role in contributing to the industry’s security along with its customers and all other stakeholders.”

Although ZTE has largely managed to avoid criticism from the US in recent months, which has predominately been centred around collusion with the Chinese Government, it is surely only a matter of time. The complex ownership structure of ZTE has direct ties back to the Government, much more noticeable than the tenuous link at Huawei which has been presented countless times.

ZTE is owned by Xi’an Microelectronics (34%), Aerospace Guangyu (14.5%), Zhongxing WXT (49%) and Guoxing Ruike (2.5%). Xi’an Microelectronics a subsidiary of China Academy of Aerospace Electronics Technology, while Aerospace Guangyu is a subsidiary of CASIC Shenzhen Group; both groups are state-owned enterprise and responsible for nominating 5 of the 9 Directors of ZTE.

ZTE clearly has more of a direct link to the Chinese Government, though it has seemingly avoided the spotlight thus far as it does not have the same market share in the network infrastructure market as Huawei.

According to the Dell’Oro Group, ZTE featured in the top seven network infrastructure equipment vendors worldwide, alongside Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, Cisco, Ciena and Samsung, with the group accounting for roughly 80% of global market share. Huawei is leading the rankings by some margin, though over the course of 2018, ZTE’s share dropped by two percentage points to 8% global market share.

That said, it does have some significant customers in Europe. Wind Tre in Italy is supposedly one of the biggest customers of the firm, perhaps explaining its 5G research centre being located in L’Aquila, about 100km north of Rome. Elsewhere, ZTE has signed MOUs with Hutchison Drei Austria, Portugal Telecom and Telefonica in recent years. ZTE might not attract the headlines Huawei does, but it has an established presence in 15 countries throughout Europe.

Perhaps the saving grace for ZTE in recent months has been it operates in markets the US isn’t that bothered about. The Trump administration seems to be very selective when it levels its national security concerns at allies, focusing primarily on the more prosperous economies.

ZTE has already been the focal point of a number of different scandals including bribery and violation of US trade sanctions, and it seems it will only be a matter of time before government collusion is thrown on the table again, especially if it starts making progress in the market share league. It seems this cybersecurity centre focused on transparency is an effort to get ahead of the game.

The US or cash? Huawei asks Poland to choose sides

Huawei has put its financially favourable foot forward, suggesting Poland will only get a cash boost if the vendor is allowed to participate in the 5G bonanza.

The role of Huawei in European networks has been under scrutiny for a considerable amount of time, and while it does appear it will be safe in numerous markets, Poland is one which is still hanging in the balance.

According to Reuters, Huawei is prepared to invest roughly $793 million in the country as long as it is allowed to sell equipment to the Polish telcos. While this might be enough to force some politicians into switching on the green-light, Poland is an area where Huawei has found itself in a bit of bother recently.

Back in January, a Chinese employee of Huawei and a Polish national working for Orange were both arrested on spying allegations by Polish security services. Evidence was not produced at the time, though concrete evidence has not been needed to ban Huawei in the US, or in countries such as Australia.

In terms of the US, Poland has had a strong relationship with the country for some time. Polish–US relations were officially established in 1919 and the country has remained one of the most stable allies of the US since. This filters down to the general public also, with Poland one of the most consistently pro-American nations in Europe and the world.

You also have to factor in more direct threats from the US. In February, the combative Secretary of State Mike Pompeo effectively suggested Eastern European nations would have to choose between working with the US or Huawei.

Looking at the Polish economy, a fractured relationship with the US would be difficult. Poland is the 24th largest export economy in the world, with the vast majority of exports heading to nations in Europe. However, the US is the largest single market outside of Europe for Poland, accounting for 2.7% according to Observatory of Economic Complexity, a MIT project.

With the US leaning so heavily on European allies to ban Huawei, seemingly as a means of putting pressure on the Chinese Government, Poland might turn out to be an interesting battle ground. Of course, you have to consider the cash incentive from Huawei.

Poland is effectively the Eastern European home ground of Huawei. The firm employs roughly 900 people in the country and will have a positive impact with its Polish supply chain. With further investments planned in the country, the direct impact of £793 million will keep the Polish Government happy, but there will be considerable knock-ons in other parts of the economy.

Another consideration for Poland will be market competition. Polish telcos will need a suitable amount of competition to ensure investments in network infrastructure is as low as possible. When you consider ARPU on mobile users, the demands become much more evident.

Orange’s Polish business currently has 9.7 million subscribers, each generating roughly £5.67 a month in revenue. For Play, Poland’s largest MNO, just over 12 million subscribers generate £6.71 a month for data services. For Polish telcos to generate ROI, competition between the network infrastructure vendors is clearly needed; banning Huawei might have some difficult implications to stomach.

Huawei knows this of course and is playing an excellent move. Poland will have to make a decision before too long; persist with its relationship with the US or effectively help Huawei gain traction in Eastern Europe.

Concerns raised about under-age social media use

Research conducted by AgeChecked has revealed concerns about the exposure young children have to social media services and some of the content on them.

Age verification service AgeChecked surveyed 1,500 UK adults and found social media in certain areas is scarily unregulated, even to the point where children using social media could potentially access pornographic content without any form of age checking. To make matters worse many 10 year olds accessing social media even though the legal age is 13.

“For parents, monitoring their childrens’ online activity has become a near-impossible task” said Alastair Graham CEO of AgeChecked. “Social media companies have a duty of care to young people, and must ensure that those who are accessing their sites meet their minimum age requirement.

“Whilst the ever-growing market of technologies can be of great benefit to children, they also pose unprecedented risks. Appropriate measures – such as robust, integrated age verification systems – must be taken to ensure young people are protected from potentially harmful material.”

68% of parents have made the claim that their child could be talking to strangers via social networking sites, according to the research. 70% have said that their child has access to disturbing video content and, maybe the worst of all, 40% have voiced the concern that their child can visit shopping sites and buy dangerous items such as knives and alcohol without being age checked.

Studies like this will add to the increasing pressure social media companies are already under to protect their users from harm. Companies like AgeChecked may have a commercial interest in promoting the importance of making sure under-age people don’t have access to inappropriate content, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.