A series of emails highlighted by the United States Justice embarrass the builder Huawei. The message exchange shows how the Chinese company stole an American robot. It also proves that to mount a spying operation, email is not the most recommended tool.
When we talk about espionage at the international level, we are tempted to imagine James Bond secret agents who communicate via very sophisticated and optimally encrypted technologies. But in real life and in the case involving Huawei and the United States, the facts are far less epic.
The Chinese manufacturer is indeed embarrassed by an exchange of mails highlighted by the indictment signed by federal prosecutors in Washington State and relayed by Engadget. In this series of messages, we read how Huawei employees planned the theft of an American robot. Yes you read well: the giant Huawei orchestrated a spying operation … with emails. We are far removed from the James Bond universe.
13 counts of indictment
But before going further, let's recall the context. The US government has indicted Huawei for thirteen charges. In particular, the company is accused of stealing technology belonging to the T-Mobile operator. However, the exchange of mails in question allows us to learn a little more about it.
In May 2012, Huawei asked T-Mobile if it could get a license or buy a cheap Tappy test phone robot – it was used to set standards for a large part of the industry. The American operator responded in the negative and Huawei simply decided to steal Tappy.
Very compromising emails
From 2012 to 2013, a handful of Huawei employees regularly visited the operator's headquarters to try to get information about Tappy. Despite numerous reminders to the T-Mobile representatives, the "spies" have continued to insecurely search as they report in emails.
They explain, among other things, having managed to glean some valuable information from the T-Mobile labs, but they have trouble getting their hands on all the data desired by Huawei. In several messages, it is a question of taking measurements as well as photos and videos of the running robot – whereas this had been formally forbidden by T-Mobile.
The exchanges lasted for a whole year until we arrived at the most compromising mail sent by one of Huawei's employees there to his colleagues.
Date: May 2013From: F.W. (Huawei China engineer) To: engineers @ huawei, jy @ huawei, ax @ huaweiObject: Re: Robot arm
A.X. was able to remove the robot arm from the lab without being detected and I took exact measurements. However, TMO quickly discovered that the arm had disappeared and A.X. was forced to return the room the next day. A.X. told them that the robot had been taken by mistake. Our access to the laboratory has been completely revoked and Huawei USA employees are no longer allowed to enter the facility without supervision.
I have attached the detailed measurements of the arm. See photos for more details.
United States vs China
This evidence seems rather overwhelming for Huawei who should be struggling to get out of this misstep. Recall that it has been a long time since the United States is in conflict with the Chinese company which has thus found itself at the heart of a political and economic rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
Unsurprisingly, China reacted quickly to support Huawei. Now, they will have to prepare a concrete defense.
Read on FrAndroid: Around Huawei, the Cold War between the United States and China begins to burn