Archive for Connectivity

One-Third of Major VPNs Owned By Chinese

A recent survey by VPNpro has revealed that almost one-third of the most popular VPN services are secretly owned by Chinese companies that may be subject to weak privacy laws.

VPN

A ‘Virtual Private Network’ (VPN) is used to keep internet activity private, evade censorship / maintain net neutrality and use public Wi-Fi securely e.g. avoid threats such as ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks.  A VPN achieves this by diverting a user’s traffic via a remote server in order to replace their IP address while offering the user a secure, encrypted connection (like a secure tunnel) between the user’s device and the VPN service.

Based In China

The VPNpro research found that the top 97 VPNs are run by only 23 parent companies and that although 6 of these companies are based in China and offer 29 VPN services between them, information on their parent company is often hidden to users.

Metric Labs Research Last Year

The results of the VPNPro research support the findings of an investigation by Metric Labs last year which found that of the top free VPN (Virtual Private Network) apps in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, more than half are run by companies with Chinese ownership.

What’s The Problem?

The worry about VPN services being based in China is that China not only tightly controls access to the Internet from within the country, but has clamped down on VPN services, and many of the free VPN services with links to China, for example, offer little or no privacy protection and no user support.  Weak privacy laws in China, coupled with strong state control could mean that data held by VPN providers could be accessed and could enable governments or other organisations to identify users and their activity online, thereby putting human rights activists, privacy advocates, investigative journalists, whistle-blowers, and anyone criticising the state in danger.  For other users of China-based VPN services, it could also simply mean that they could more easily be subject to a range of privacy and security risks such as having their personal data stolen to be used in other criminal activity or could even be subject to industrial espionage.

China, Russia, Pakistan and other states whose activities are causing concerns to Western governments all appear to be less trusted when it comes to hosting VPN services or redirecting Internet traffic through their countries.  For example, in February this year, US Senators Marco Rubio (Republican) and Ron Wyden (Democrat) asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate governmental employees’ use of VPNs because of concerns that many VPNs that use foreign servers to redirect traffic through China and Russia could intercept sensitive US data.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The reason for using a VPN is to ensure privacy and security in communications so it’s a little worrying that some of the top VPN services are based in countries that have weaker privacy laws than the UK and are known for strong state control of communications.

Fears about security and privacy of our data and communications have been heightened by reports of Russia’s interference in the last US election and the UK referendum, and by the current poor relations between the Trump administration (which the UK has intelligence links with) and warnings about possible espionage, privacy and security threats from the use of equipment from Chinese communications company Huawei in western communications infrastructure.   Also, in the UK, there is a need by businesses and organisations to remain GDPR compliant, part of which involves ensuring that personal data is stored on servers based in places that can ensure privacy and security.

It appears, therefore, that for businesses and organisations seeking VPN services, some more desk research needs to be done to ensure that those services have all the signs of offering the highest possible levels of security and privacy i.e. opting for a trusted paid-for service that isn’t owned by or a subsidiary of a company in a state that has weak privacy laws.

Opting Out of People Reviewing Your Alexa Recordings

Amazon has now added an opt-out option for manual review of voice recordings and their associated transcripts taken through Amazon’s Alexa but it has not stopped the practice of taking voice recordings to help develop new Alexa features.

Opt-Out Toggle

The opt-out toggle can be found in the ‘Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa’ section of your privacy settings, which you will have to sign-in to Amazon to be able to see.  This section contains a “Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features” section with a toggle switch to the right-hand side of it and moving the toggle from the default ‘yes’ to the ‘no’ position will stop humans reviewing your voice recordings.

Echo owners can see the transcript and hear what Alexa has recorded of their voices by visiting the ‘Review Voice History’ of the privacy section.

Why Take Recordings?

Amazon argues that training its Alexa digital voice assistant using recordings from a diverse range of customers can help to ensure that Alexa works well for all users, and those voice recordings may be used to help develop new features.

Why Manually Review?

Amazon says that manually reviewing recordings and transcripts is another method that the company uses to help improve their services, and that only “an extremely small fraction” of the voice recordings taken are manually reviewed.

Google and Apple Have Stopped

Google has recently been forced to stop the practice of manually reviewing its auto snippets (in Europe) by the Hamburg data protection authority, which threatened to use Article 66 powers of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to stop Google from doing so.  This followed a leak of more than 1,000 recordings to the Belgian news site VRT by a contractor working as a Dutch language reviewer.  It has been reported that VRT was even able to identify some of the people in the recorded clips.

Apple has also stopped the practice of manual, human reviewing of recordings and transcripts taken via Siri after a (Guardian) report revealed that contractors used by Apple had heard private medical information and even recordings of people having sex in the clips.  This was thought to be the result of the digital assistant mistaking another word for its wake word.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If you have an Amazon Echo and you visit the ‘Review Voice History’ section of your privacy page, you may be very surprised to see just how many recordings have been taken, and the dates, times, and what has been said could even be a source of problems to those who have been recorded.  Even though we understand that AI/Machine Learning technology needs training in order to improve its recognition of and response to our questions, the fact that mistakes with wake words could lead to sensitive discussions being recorded and listened to by third-party contractors, and that voices could even be identified from those recordings highlights a real threat to privacy and security, and a trade-off that many users may not be prepared to accept.

It’s a shame that mistakes and legal threats were the catalysts for stopping Google and Apple from using manual reviewing, and it is surprising that in the light of their cases, Amazon is not stopping the practice as a default altogether but is merely including an opt-out toggle switch deep within the Privacy section of its platform.

This story is a reminder that although smart speakers and the AI behind them bring many benefits, attention needs to be paid, as it does by all companies to privacy and security when dealing with what can be very personal data.

Goodbye Skype for Business, Hello Teams

Microsoft has announced that Skype for Business Online will be giving way to ‘Teams’, with support for Skype for Business already ended on 31 July 2021, and all new Microsoft 365 customers due to get Microsoft Teams by default from 1 September 2019.

What Is Teams?

Introduced back in November 2016, ‘Teams’ is a platform designed to help collaborative working and combines features such as workplace chat, meetings, notes, and attachments. Described by Microsoft as a “complete chat and online meetings solution”, it normally integrates with the company’s Office 365 subscription office productivity suite, and Teams is widely considered to be Microsoft’s answer to ‘Slack’.

Slack is a popular, multi-channel collaborative working hub that offers chat channels with companies and businesses you regularly work with, direct voice or video calls and screen-sharing, integrated drag-and-drop file sharing, and an App Directory with over 1,500 apps that can be integrated into Slack.

Back in July 2018, Microsoft introduced a free, basic features version of Teams which did not require an Office 365 account, in order to increase user numbers and tempt users away from Slack.

According to Microsoft figures announced in July, Teams now has 13 million users which are more than Slack’s 10 million users.  Microsoft is keen to promote Teams as a new communications tool rather than just an upgrade to Skype for Business.

End of Skype For Business
Microsoft originally announced at the end of 2017 that Teams was set to replace Skype for Business as Microsoft’s primary client for intelligent communications in Office 365.

With this in mind, Microsoft ended support for Skype for Business at the end of July, will be giving all new 365 customers Teams by default from 1 September and has said that current Skype for Business Online customers won’t notice any change in service in the meantime.

Migration and Interoperability

Microsoft has announced investment and interoperability that will ensure a painless migration to Teams for Skype for Business Online.  For example, from the first quarter of 2020 customers on both platforms will be able to communicate via calls and text chats, DynamicE911 will work in Teams, and Teams also includes contact centre integration and compliance recording solutions.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Microsoft is succeeding in challenging and overtaking its competitor Slack in the business collaborative working communications tools market.  Brand reach and power coupled with a free version, and now compulsory migration for existing and default for new users has seen Teams reach the point where, as planned by Microsoft more than two years ago, it can ably replace Skype for Business.

It appears that Microsoft is making efforts and investing to ensure that the migration is as smooth for (and attractive to) existing Skype business customers as possible and that the voice and video capabilities, cognitive and data services and insights that Teams offers should add value that could translate into advantages and extra efficiencies for users.

5G At No Extra Cost Says Three

Mobile operator Three has announced that new and existing customers with compatible handsets will be able to get 5G at no extra cost(s) when its 5G service is launched later this year.

5G Offer

Three says that when its 5G service goes live later this year, starting with 25 UK towns and cities, it will be able to offer unlimited data with no limit on speed for the same price it currently charges for its 4G tariffs (£22 per month). As well as offering 5G to existing customers at no extra costs Three will offer will include 5G as standard for new contracts.

Price War

In what looks likely to be an initial price war, Three’s price and unlimited data speed appears to stand up quite well against competition from Vodafone’s Sim-only tariff (£23 a month with a 2 Mbps limit, and £30 a month full-speed 5G), and EE’s sim-only 5G at £32 a month with a 20GB data download cap.

Criticised By Ofcom

Three has, however, recently been criticised by the regulator Ofcom over its practice of not automatically cutting its customers’ monthly charge at the end of their contract’s lock-in period.  According to Ofcom, this means that subscribers will effectively be overpaying rather than getting a great new deal unless they proactively change to another deal.

Three’s Advantage

Three has an advantage over its 3 big UK operator competitors because Three holds more “blocks” of 5G spectrum (3.4 to 3.8GHz band) than each of them, thereby getting potential speed, capacity, and performance benefits.  This apparently uneven split of the major blocks of the available 5G spectrum among the big operators is one of the issues that has been criticised recently by Telefónica UK boss Mark Evans.

Consultation

Mr Evans has called for a more balanced approach by Ofcom in order to help the sector to invest and meet the UK’s digital connectivity demands. In addition to criticising the uneven split of 5G spectrum, Mr Evans has also pointed out that other countries have already acted to reduce spectrum defragmentation whereas operators in the UK are still awaiting the results of the consultation.

Health Concerns

One other challenge that mobile operators face in the introduction of 5G is concern over possible health risks. 5G uses higher frequency (electromagnetic radiation) radio waves than earlier mobile networks so that more devices can access the internet at the same time with faster speeds. Part of the permitted 5G spectrum actually falls within the microwave band. These higher frequency waves (mmWave high-frequency spectrum), however, travel relatively short distances.  This means that, in order to achieve the right levels of speed and connectivity in urban areas, more transmitter masts closer to the ground will be needed.  This has led to concerns that 5G frequencies may have the potential to damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

5G represents a great opportunity for business.  Its increased speed and lower latency allow the downloading of films and games in seconds and watching them without any buffering, and this kind of speed will allow all kinds of new opportunities for presentation media e.g. in advertising, on social media and on websites.

Many different types of businesses could benefit from improved connectivity with remote workers or with salespeople in remote areas.

Also, the news from an O2 forecast is that 5G could deliver time savings that could bring £6 billion a year in productivity savings in the UK and that 5G-enabled tools and smart items could save UK householders £450 a year in food, council and fuel bills.

Safety, however, is a major concern for all businesses, but even though 5G will use a higher frequency, there is no compelling evidence to date to show that it would pose new health risks to users.  In the UK, it will be some time before 5G networks are up and running to any significant level, and this means that there should be time for research to be conducted in areas where 5G use is at a more advanced stage.

For UK industry mobile operators, there is also an issue still to sort out over the fragmentation of spectrum blocks and how this will affect the market, competitors, customers, and 5G connectivity across the country.  The results of the consultation may provide some guidance and help.

London Underground To Get 4G Next Year

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that from March 2020, 4G rollout will begin across the London Underground network, thereby allowing customers, for the first time, to check emails and travel information, use social media, and stream music and video uninterrupted.

First Section

The first section of the network to get a trial of full mobile connectivity within station platforms, tunnels, ticket halls and corridors from March 2020 will be the eastern half of the Jubilee line (between Westminster and Canning Town).  This will help to remove one of the most high-profile mobile ‘not-spots’ in the UK, and to fulfil an important ambition of Mayor Khan to improve digital connectivity in public spaces, stations and right across London’s transport network.

Although free Wi-Fi is already offered by TfL within more than 260 Wi-Fi-enabled London Underground stations and on TfL Rail services, the trialling of 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services along this first section will mark the beginning of a push to boost digital connectivity across London and to tackle the city’s main areas of poor connectivity.  TfL also hopes that the trial work on connecting this first section of the Underground will also give TfL and mobile operators valuable experience of delivering mobile connectivity there ahead of awarding a concession to deliver mobile coverage across the whole underground network, starting from summer 2020.

What’s Been The Problem?

One of the main reasons why mobile connectivity in the London Underground network has been challenging is because of the many old and narrow tunnels, which weren’t built to allow space to install mobile connectivity equipment, and have twists that can make it more difficult for signals to pass through them. The fact that there are now 24-hour tube services may also prove to be a challenge to any engineering staff who need access to the tunnels.

Benefits

The benefits of having mobile (4G) connectivity across the London Underground will include potentially boosting the capital’s productivity and improving the experience of those living and working in and visiting London.

Work

It is estimated that the work to provide connections across the London Underground network could involve the use of over 1,200 miles of cabling. It has been reported that the engineers working on the project will work weeknight shifts in order to minimise any disruption to passengers.

What Will This Mean For Your Business?

The London Underground handles an estimated 5 million passenger journeys per day, and the fact that the network has suffered from a lack of connectivity may have come at a huge cost to businesses over the years as workers can’t receive travel updates and suffer frequent delays, and working people have been simply unavailable and essentially cut-off while travelling through one of the world’s leading modern capital cities. The connectivity work, beginning in key areas from March 2020 should improve the productivity of London and of businesses based there, as well as improving the experience of those living and working in London.

For mobile networks, this represents a significant business opportunity as, once the equipment installed, they will be able to pay the private operator for access to that network. TfL will also benefit from adding connectivity infrastructure by receiving a cut of the profits.

Tech Tip – Lightbeam Screen-Sharing App

If you’d like an app that enables you to easily share mobile screens with a friend or colleague, for work or leisure, Lightbeam is a new, free, cross-platform app which does just that.

The social screen sharing app also makes it easy to book group itineraries and reservations for trips, and it also works as a video chat service.

To download the app find it on Apple’s iTunes, and on Google Play Store.

Slack Builds Email Bridge

Chat App and collaborative working tool Slack appears to have given up the fight to eliminate email by allowing the introduction of new tools that enable Slack collaboration features inside Gmail and Outlook, thereby building a more inclusive ‘email bridge’.

What Is Slack?

Slack, launched ‘way back’ in 2013, is a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools and services. It provides mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and is available for the Apple Watch, enabling users to send direct messages, see mentions, and send replies.

Slack teams enable users (communities, groups, or teams) to join through a URL or invitation sent by a team admin or owner. It was intended as an organisational communication tool, but it has gradually been morphing into a community platform i.e. it is a business technology that has crossed-over into personal use.

Email Bridge

After having a five-year battle against email, Slack is building an “email bridge” into its platform that will allow those who only have email to communicate with Slack users.

Aim

The change is aimed at getting those members of an organisation on board who have signed up to the Slack app but are not willing to switch entirely from email to Slack. The acceptance that not everyone wants to give up using their email altogether has made way for a belief by Slack that something at least needs to be built-in to the app to allow companies and organisations to be able to leverage the strengths of all their workers, and at least allow those organisation and team members who are separated because of their Slack vs email situation to be connected to the important conversations within Slack. It will also now mean that companies and organisations have time to make the transition in working practices at their own pace (or not ) i.e. migrate (or not migrate) entirely to Slack.

How?

The change supports Slack’s current Outlook and Gmail functionality, which enables users to forward emails into a channel where members can view and discuss the content and plan responses from inside Slack. It also allows anything set within the Outlook or Gmail Calendar to be automatically synced to Slack.

The new changes will allow team members who have email but have not committed to Slack to receive an email notification when they’re mentioned by their username in channels or are sent a direct message.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Slack appears to have listened to Slack users who’d like a way to keep connected with their e-mail only / waiting to receive credentials colleagues, and the email bridge is likely to meet with their approval in this respect.  For Slack, it also presents the opportunity gently for those people who are more resistant to change into eventually making the move to Slack.

This change is one of several announced by Slack, such as the ‘Actions’ feature last year, and the two new toolkits (announced in February this year) that will allow non-coders to build apps within Slack.

Slack knows that there are open source and other alternatives in the market, and the addition of more features and more alliances will help Slack to provide more valuable tools to users, thereby helping it to gain and retain loyalty and compete in a rapidly evolving market.

‘ManyChat’ Raises $18 million Funding For Facebook Messenger Bot

California-based startup ‘ManyChat’ has raised $18 million Series A funding for its Facebook Messenger marketing bot.

ManyChat

ManyChat Inc. is now the leading messenger marketing product, reportedly powering over 100,000 bots on Facebook Messenger.

ManyChat lets you use visual drag`n`drop interface to create a free Facebook Messenger bot for marketing, sales and support.  The bot is essentially a Facebook Page that sends out messages and responds to users automatically.

The ManyChat bot allows you to welcome new users, send them content, schedule posts, set up keyword auto-responses (text, pictures, menus), automatically broadcast your RSS feed and more.

The bot, which is a blend of automation and personal outreach also incorporates Live Chat that notifies you when a conversation is needed with a subscriber.

Facebook Messenger

ManyChat says it has focused on Facebook Messenger because it is the #1 app in the US and Canada with over 1 billion active users, and it is the most engaging channel with average 80% open rates and 4 to 10 times higher CTRs compared to email.

The Funding

The $18 million funding for ManyChat was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from Flint Capital, and means that Bessemer’s Ethan Kurzweil will be joining the board of directors, and Bessemer’s Alex Ferrara becomes a board observer.

1+ Million Accounts Created

ManyChat reports that more than 1 million accounts have been created on the platform already by customers in many different industry sectors.  The platform has also reported that these 1+ million customers have managed to enlist 350 million Messenger subscribers and that there are now a staggering 7 billion messages sent on the platform each month.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Bots provide a way for businesses to reduce costs, make better use of resources and communicate with customers and enquirers 24/7.

As ManyChat points out, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to effectively reach their audience because people open less email and social media is ‘noisy’ to the point where messages become lost in the crowd.  A key advantage of ManyChat, therefore, is that it uses Facebook Messenger as a private channel of communication with each user, it’s instant and interactive, no message is ever lost, and Messenger has huge user numbers. Other advantages that businesses will appreciate is that it’s free and easy to set up the bot (no coding skills are required), and it offers the best of both worlds of automated communications, and the option to jump in with Live Chat when it is needed.

This kind of bot could enable businesses and organisations to make their marketing more effective while maximising efficiency.

ManyChat is also good news for Facebook which owns Messenger as it appears to be boosting user numbers by finding an improved, business-focused use for the app.

For ManyChat, its Facebook Messenger bot appears to be only the beginning (hence the funding), with investors looking at platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp, RCS, and more to further expand bot marketing services in the future.

School Enlists Chinese Help To Upgrade To Enhanced Wi-Fi

The Lytchett Minster School in Dorset recently made the news among IT commentators after demonstrating how it could overcome the connectivity challenges of its rural location, cut costs and increase efficiency by upgrading its on-site network with Chinese company TP-Link’s enhanced Wi-Fi.

Challenges

As recently featured by Computer Weekly, the school had to contend with a rural campus location and the resulting poor connectivity, next to a grade II listed 18th century manor house, and a rudimentary system of ageing individual home-user access points (APs) mounted in school corridors which required users to disconnect and reconnect when roaming around.   Also, the old wireless network was not voucher-based and was insecure (the pre-shared key could be compromised), which meant that staff had to reset each AP’s password individually (with remote authentication dial-in user service help) and users had to keep reconnecting each of their devices to the network.

As is the case with so many schools, Lytchett Minster School had to make its limited budget go as far as possible in the upgrade.  This meant the need to minimise price per AP and annual licensing fees while getting the best value, efficient and effective wireless infrastructure solution.

Requirements

It was decided that the most important requirements on the school’s list were power over Ethernet (PoE), Radius authentication, centralised management, provision of multiple service set identifiers (SSIDs) and voucher authentication.

TP-Link Chosen

The school chose Chinese company TP-Link to upgrade their on-site network based on features offered, value for money, and the fact that TP-Link builds its hardware itself instead of outsourcing and, therefore, doesn’t charge licensing fees.

Founded in 1996 by two brothers and based in Shenzhen, China, TP-Link is a manufacturer of computer networking products and is now the world’s number 1 provider of consumer Wi-Fi networking devices, shipping products to over 170 countries. 

Change

Changing to the upgraded, enhanced Wi-Fi meant that the old APs could be moved from corridors into classrooms for optimum performance and coverage. The changes to a better enhanced Wi-Fi network also meant that access control lists could issue users with vouchers that restricted network access at the subnet according to core user group, out of hours separate public access SSID could be offered to users of the school’s sports facilities, larger numbers of staff iPads and phones could be used for teaching, and special provisions could be made for the BYOD policy for  sixth form students.

The new system also enabled easier, centralised management of the network with data from each AP being displayed to the IT department on large screens, with no more need to perform network reboots (as these can happen automatically at 6 am every day to avoid disrupting lessons), and the ability to carry out all key tasks from a central interface.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story is an example of how the potential of an organisation (a school in this case) was limited by poor Wi-Fi provision, partly due to its rural location and old, inadequate hardware. The school showed that today, it is possible for a school based in Dorset to choose a Chinese tech firm as a partner to deliver a business-class wireless network solution that meets all operational requirements within budget, and without the extra cost of ongoing licence fees. An enhanced Wi-Fi system of this kind also offers the convenience, transparency and ease of centralised control.

Is Huawei Really Dragging Its Feet Over Security?

After espionage chiefs from the ‘Five Eyes’ agreed last July that they would try to contain the global growth of Chinese telecom Huawei (over fears that it was spying for China), a new report from the Huawei Cybersecurity Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) says that the company is still not fixing previously identified security problems.

Summary – Bans, Detention, and Trump’s Trade War Efforts

Last summer saw US President Trump put China in his sights for a trade war, and with a climate of fear about possible Russian interference in US political affairs, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would have been relatively easy for Mr Trump to point the finger at China too, while implicating US tech giant Apple’s biggest competitor at the same time.  In fact, after the ‘Five-Eyes’ (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.) announced that Huawei could be spying for the Chinese state, the US, Australia and New Zealand banned Huawei Technologies Ltd from being a supplier for fifth-generation networks, and Japan banned Huawei from official contracts from December 2018.

Also, pressure was put on Deutsche Telekom, the majority owner of T-Mobile US, to stop using Huawei equipment, and Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei, was detained in Vancouver at the request of U.S. authorities for allegedly violating US sanctions on Iran.  China’s state-run media and some other commentators suggested (perhaps unsurprisingly) that Meng’s detention appeared to be politically or economically motivated.

Huawei Sues

Huawei has been left with no option but to sue the US government in a Texas court, and to claim the ban on the use of Huawei equipment by any US federal violates parts of the US Constitution.

Promised Transformation

Last November, in the face of mounting concerns and criticism, Huawei’s board of directors resolved to carry out a companywide transformation programme to the with a starting investment of US $2Bn, to enhance software engineering capabilities.  The company also said it would work with UK operators and the NCSC to make sure that the implementation met required standards along the way.

New Report Says Old Problems Not Fixed

The new report by HCSEC claims that Huawei isn’t making any real, material progress on the problems identified in the 2018 report.  HCSECs Oversight Board is still concerned about Huawei’s approach to software development, and the risk that it may pose to UK operators.  The Board is also concerned about the security aspects of the Huawei equipment currently deployed in the UK.

Huawei is world’s top producer of telecoms equipment and No.3 maker of smartphones. However, BT for example, has been using Huawei systems as part of its network, but after security concerns were expressed last year, it has been removing Huawei systems from the core of the mobile network EE, which it purchased in 2016.

Loser Attitude?

Huawei has met recent criticism from the US by saying that it is simply the result of the US displaying a “loser attitude” because it can’t compete with Huawei’s success.

Spying Would Be Suicide

The chief legal officer of Huawei, Song Liuping, has pointed out that spying would be commercial “suicide” anyway for Huawei because more than 48% of its business comes from overseas markets.

Popular Products

It would be true to say that Huawei’s consumer products (i.e. phones) have proven to be very popular despite the accusations made against the company.  Huawei has predicted that it could become the world’s biggest-selling smartphone vendor this year and that all three business groups – consumer, carrier and enterprise, are expected to post double-digit growth in 2019.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many commentators acknowledge that there may be political and economic motivations behind some of the measures being taken against Huawei.  The point that the ‘Five-Eyes’ have been trying to highlight is that possibly, Huawei’s products and network software could have backdoors built-in to them which could, in theory, allow covert surveillance or control, or destruction of phone networks (which are accessible via the internet).  The fear is that those acting for the Chinese state could gain access to the data stored/routed through Huawei devices, telecoms equipment and software, and could even, perhaps, monitor the conversations on mobile phones. No evidence of this has been made public to date.

One thing that is hard to deny, however, is the popularity of Huawei’s consumer products.  The company has now become the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment and has overtaken US giant Apple in terms of the number of handsets that it ships worldwide.  UK stores are still stocking and selling its handsets, and the warnings of various governments look unlikely, for the time being, to make any major dent in that side of its business, although more outright bans from more countries (for a company that ships nearly half of its products overseas) could soon begin to hurt.