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Tech Transforms podcast: What we don’t know about America’s “Wireless Wars” with China – but should

On the Tech Transforms podcast, sponsored by Dynatrace, we talk to some of the most prominent influencers shaping critical government technology decisions.

On the Tech Transforms podcast, MITRE’s Tracy Bannon and I sat down with Jon Pelson, author of the bestselling book Wireless Wars. Our episode focused on exploring China’s impact on the telecommunications space – especially 5G – and its implications for U.S. privacy and national security.

In addition to his career as a bestselling author, Pelson has served as a vice president at Lucent Technologies and chief of convergence strategy for British Telecom. In his view, China grew so successful in telecommunications because of a long-time pattern of shortsightedness not only by U.S. organizations, but also by Western, Japanese, and Korean ones. As opposed to “stealing technology,” Pelson explained, China “helped itself” to other nations’ technology in the 1990s by inviting international companies to come to China and demanding those companies share what they know with the Chinese government. These international companies did not view China as a threat, so they freely shared their intellectual property.

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Wireless Wars: Understanding China’s impact on national security and federal cybersecurity

Today, China commands a ubiquitous presence in telecommunications. The Chinese multinational tech giant, Huawei, dominates investment and activity in the 5G network.

This is critical because 5G is about far more than talking to people on the phone or surfing the internet, said Pelson. Instead, it’s about controlling county, city, or state operations: farms, ports, drones, hospitals, medicine distribution, and more. The entire Internet of Things will depend upon 5G because 4G isn’t up to the task.

What’s more, today’s digital citizens have convinced themselves that their telecom-supported activity and digital information are private. However, according to Pelson, they leave metadata footprints in their day-to-day routines that reveal a wide range of details about their personal lives. These metadata footprints include who they’re talking to or texting, where they’re going, and whether it’s for work, pleasure, health, or another reason. All that information can be mined and used for social engineering attacks.

Tech Transforms podcast cover Episode 68
This episode of Tech Transforms discusses the increasing dominance of China and Huawei in telecommunications/5G and its implications for our privacy and national security.

The FCC’s ban on Chinese telecommunications and video surveillance equipment that pose threats does not appear to be stopping the potential for federal cybersecurity and homeland safety issues either, Pelson said. Huawei cell equipment, in fact, plays a major role in supporting our nuclear missile operations. This reality inspired the title of Pelson’s book. We are facing “Wireless Wars” because China and Huawei’s activity isn’t really about business.

“[Huawei leaders are] not installing these things to make money and provide equipment services and grow their company,” Pelson said. “They’re providing it to compromise the U.S., and to make sure that they have infiltrated us in our most sensitive areas. And they’ve done it. They are everywhere.”

Tune in to the full episode for more insights from author and tech executive Jon Pelson.

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