Sun, May 25, 2014 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Pact threatens information security: expert

National Cheng Kung University department of electrical engineering assistant professor Lee Jung-shian gestures during an interview in Tainan on Friday last week.

Photo: Hung Jui-chin, Taipei Times

Liberty Times: The pact has faced opposition from every front. Despite the National Communications Commission’s (NCC) assurances that only three academics have opposed the move to allow investment for second-category telecommunications, more than 700 academics have petitioned against the pact on the grounds that it would threaten national security. How do you view this issue?

Lee Jung-shian (李忠憲): If it were not for the Sunflower movement bringing the subject to the nation’s attention, I would not have been tempted to take a peek at the actual contents of the pact and would not have discovered the great dangers hidden within.

[According to the pact,] the parameters of investment [made available to Chinese] do not stop at second-category telecommunication; they include computer hardware installation, software execution, data processing, establishment of data archives, etc.

In terms of construction, the pact allows Chinese to invest in construction of base stations and the optic fiber network.

In short, the pact gives Chinese investors access to information technology construction and establishment at every level imaginable.

Researchers of mathematics and electrical engineering tend to confine themselves to their laboratories, and the academics who started the petition to draw the government’s attention had not expected more than 30 supporters to sign up.

The involvement of [petitions signed by] experts at technology giants such as Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, IBM and the Industrial Technology Research Institute in the expression of concern over potential national security risks were quite unexpected.

LT: Government bodies including the NCC say that only three services from second-category telecommunications are being made available for investing, all of which are isolated systems affecting corporate clients more than civilians. How do you view these claims?

Lee: The government’s claims show either a lack of professional knowledge or deliberate attempts to downplay the situation.

What we call second category telecommunications refers to the advanced service by entering into contracts with Chunghwa Telecom and using basic Internet services.

To use a simple analogy, second category telecom service providers, such as Arcoa and Aurora, are like cars on the highway (which are the first category communications) and offer services to the public.

One does not need to destroy the highway to stop traffic because simply detonating one of the cars, or causing a car to “drive” erratically, is enough to cause a bottleneck or paralyze the entire system.

For example, the fire in the mainframe room of Chief Telecom, a subsidiary of Chunghwa Telecom and holder of a second-category telecom permit, last year caused Internet services across the nation to go down for hours.

The term “second category telecommunications” includes a broad range of services such as banks, medical facilities, the Electronic Toll Collection system, online railway ticket purchasing systems, and even household registration systems.

These systems were made with public service in mind, and if their Internet service providers (ISP) were to change to Chinese investors, it is the public’s information security that is put at risk.

Computerized commercial services would also be made available for Chinese investment, such as information processing and the establishment of data archives.

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