I cannot remember how we got to discussing about technology and the new 5G standard. My buddy Otto was a bit surprised at how adamant the US government with their demand that all of its allies must not purchase Huawei 5G technologies.
His statement was that this might be an example of US imperialism. I tried to dismiss all of this but I did remember over the last few years the occasional news article describing how the USA’s department of defense or other three letter acronym warned about Trojans. Did this already happen to Amazon and Apple?
Later in the day my other office friend, Christian, informed me about the mechanical keyboard that he bought. Christian actually loves mechanical keyboards and so that wasn’t the surprising part. The keyboard was essentially purchased online and delivered directly from China to his house. Both the quality and the cost of this keyboard was amazing and in that sense he was very happy.
It was only a few minutes later that he let the other shoe drop. This keyboard actually included a cloud driver. The drivers name sounds a bit odd but if you think about it what exactly would a keyboard need a cloud driver for unless it needed to communicate with the cloud. That is exactly what was happening.
What was happening was not the more serious concern that all of your key presses are being sent to some server in China, what was actually being sent was a count of how many key presses were done on each key. This might not be so important if you are updating a long boring report on weather patterns during the dust bowl but perhaps more important if you are entering your domain password (and then simply read your emails).
Manufacturing in the 21st century makes it almost impossible to know and test the origin of each and every component in a electronic device. Adding an extra chip to a circuit board may be more obvious but adding new logic into an existing micro-controller would make such a spy device virtually undetectable.
Did any malicious hardware changes actually happen in the past? Does Huawei have any extra special additions in their hardware aimed at learning intelligence? It is impossible to say for certain but expectations and privacy and laws are different in China as are the rules for monitoring people. This can be seen by the inhabitants being spied on by their city. Not only that but allegedly the US knows this is completely possible considering that they have done similar things in the past.
I don’t know if Christian actually installed this cloud driver when he purchased the keyboard but I can understand how you would feel to learn about such a betrayal after using something for a few years.