NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association has named Sam McGuire to chair its Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Committee. McGuire, who is the senior director of strategy at 5×5 Technologies, succeeds Bryan McKernan from Consortiq, who accepted a position with the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
According to NATE, McGuire has has spent most of his career working for early- to mid-stage startups. The association also said McGuire has worked as a tower technician, traveling the country with his brother, spending nearly a year in the field, climbing and conducting structural inspections on more than 500 towers.
Since then, McGuire has focused solely on bringing new technologies to the industry, NATE said. In addition to chairing the NATE UAS Committee, McGuire chairs the TIA Drones Ad Hoc Group under the TR-14 Committee. NATE said that at 5×5 Technologies McGuire works with wireless industry stakeholders to deploy drone and image analytics technologies to better assess, understand and manage critical infrastructure.
McGuire said in a prepared statement that he looks forward to building upon McKernan’s leadership and stewardship.
“These are exciting times in the commercial drone sector, and NATE has a great opportunity to leverage the expertise of its UAS Committee members and member companies to capitalize on the dynamic potential of this technology to expand use cases in the wireless infrastructure industry,” he said.
It is becoming increasingly clear that governments around the world will “outsource” significant cybersecurity responsibility to telecom operators.
It is well known that the Chinese government has the country on lockdown: people are monitored 24/7 with millions of CCTV cameras; the “Great Firewall of China” blocks access to unapproved content and tracks attempts to circumvent it; municipal party leaders keep tabs on citizens. All networks and equipment are operated by companies either owned by the government or are beholden to them.
All surveillance data is aggregated into a unified system of social credits intended to standardize the assessment of the social and financial reputations of individuals and firms. People who do not live up to the Chinese government standards are sent to “transformation-through-education” or reeducation camps and generally are denied due process to defend their activities, according to Amnesty International. In practice, no information moves outside of the government’s purview.
It is curious then why so many cyberattacks originate from China than any other nation. If the Chinese government was so concerned about law and order, they could end these attacks immediately, but they do not. In China, the government and President Xi control everything except the people hired and encouraged to hack the free world every day.
The White House, The U.K. government, and The European Union agree
Yesterday the White House, U.K. government, and European Union simultaneously published statements calling for China to stop cyberattacks of malicious behavior and electronic espionage. The US also charged four Chinese nationals (three of whom were working as part of the state’s Ministry of Security) for attacks on companies, universities, and government entities in the US and abroad between 2011 and 2018.
What advanced technology China has not been able to develop itself, it appropriates through other methods, whether forced technology transfer or theft. U.S. cybersecurity vendor Cybereason issued a report describing “an ongoing global attack against telecommunications providers that has been active since at least 2017.” The report concludes the perpetrator is the APT10, an “advanced persistent threat,” and a state-supported Chinese espionage group. In December 2018, the U.S. government indicted APT10 members with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The indictment noted the hackers worked in tandem to steal intellectual and technological information from dozens of commercial and defense technology companies throughout the continental United States. Additionally, APT 10 is also responsible for the theft of personnel information for 100,000 U.S. Navy personnel.
In Norway, the supplier of financial systems in the cloud Visma saw that Chinese hackers tried to steal client data – Visma is a company that delivers finance systems to hundreds of thousands of companies around the world.
Australian intelligence officials claimed China may have accessed thousands of files and 19 years’ worth of data – to include tax and banking records – on Australian National University students and staff. Many of ANU’s graduates serve in the country’s intelligence and security agencies.
Symantec unveiled, in June, how Chinese hackers have attacked satellite and telecommunications infrastructure in the west.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) identified China as responsible for the greatest number of cyberattacks by any nation over the past dozen years. It reached this conclusion by examining public data. The true depth of China’s efforts – and successes – in penetrating western networks is probably still unknown.
Every day cyberhackers are looking for vulnerabilities to exploit, but if you can build products and services with backdoors, the Chinese government has in many countries still an open road to telecom operators’ corporate customers, information, technology, and secrets.
In Germany, the government, NATO, and corporate and private entities do not have access to networks free from influence from Chinese government tech.
Every time the Germany-based U.S. Commanding General Christopher Cavoliare of United States Army Europe and Africa, his staff, or his family use a mobile phone, their traffic is sent through a Chinese mobile network. General Christopher Cavoliare and the rest of the people in Germany cannot get a network free from Chinese government tech.
Telecom networks are the foundation of the digital society. COVID19 proved that telecom networks are essential, as they have allowed people to work, learn, shop, and get healthcare from home during a period of lockdown and social distancing. Consequently, the importance of security and resilience of these networks is heightened. Policymakers are justifiably concerned about the vulnerabilities of these networks. They want to examine the network elements–their vendors, supply chains, and protocols and adopt measures to secure them.
Many countries have implemented restrictions on Huawei and ZTE. These restrictions have followed extensive investigations which have uncovered many red flags, including but not limited to, the inability to establish the technical baseline that the systems are not compromised by backdoors, inability to demonstrate that the Chinese government and military are not integrated with the enterprise, lack of operational and financial transparency and disclosure, illegal and unethical business practices, and violation of international law.
These investigations also follow the hardening of the Chinese regime under General Secretary Xi Jinping and the demonstrated aggression and repression against the people in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet in addition to the widespread implementation of surveillance technologies and practices on the Chinese people. Thus, restricting the implicated firms and technologies is a prudent response from a nation that wants to protect the privacy, sovereignty, and security of its people and assets. This is hardly a new concept; NATO has never purchased Chinese fighter jets or Russian submarines or Huawei telecom equipment. It follows that in a world with a new threat landscape, policymakers need to review and update the standards for telecom network equipment.
Consumers are increasingly savvy and concerned about the privacy and security of their data; moreover, they expect their suppliers to demonstrate ethical behavior and good governance. Telecom operators and governments are well aware of this, but they have responded differently. There are three categories of response: some recognize the threat and remove vulnerable elements like Huawei and ZTE from their networks; others which recognize that Huawei and ZTE are problematic but believe that the risk can be managed; and finally, those which do not believe there is a problem and continue to use Huawei and ZTE. For the customers of the networks in the last two categories, they cannot exercise their right to limit their exposure to Huawei and ZTE unless (1) there is transparency of the elements and (2) there is a safe network alternative.
Indeed, private and corporate customers increasingly demand that telecom operators improve the security of networks. They want to limit if not eliminate the risk of theft, espionage, surveillance, sabotage, and other compromises of their information. As such, many operators choose not to renew their Huawei and ZTE contracts, or they launch a rip and replace effort to upgrade networks with secure equipment.
Consider Belgium, the headquarters of the European Union, NATO, and many firms in the defense, pharmaceutical, and other advanced technology industries. Until now, like Germany still, it was impossible to choose a telecom operator who had no exposure to Huawei or ZTE. Fortunately, in late 2020 Proximus and Orange moved to upgrade their networks with secure, non-Chinese equipment. This is not just an issue for Brussels or big cities; consider Puurs, Belgium, the European epicenter for the COVID19 vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech will likely demand additional measures to secure their networks, as China’s state-sponsored hackers have targeted vaccine-related information.
What the future looks like for the telecommunications industry – just ask the banks.
To see the future of the telecom industry, look at what happened with banking. European banks have been required to implement Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing (CFT). About 10 percent of European banks employees are today working with compliance. Telecom authorities, defense officials, and other policymakers and will likely see cybersecurity as vital for Europe and that telecom infrastructure is critically important. So just as the banks have been put under a heavy regulatory regime to address corruption, the industry will be required to implement deterrence of cyberattacks.
In practical terms, the authorities in the E.U. and each nation-state will likely make some demands that challenge the network paradigm that telecommunications companies operate today. The rules will likely be so rigid that they will effectively eliminate Huawei and other Chinese companies from being vendors without making explicit bans. However, it will not be governments alone driving the charge. Corporate customers of telecom networks, companies that have experienced hacking, IP theft, or espionage, will also join the effort.
National telecom regulatory authorities in Europe publish information about the telecom industry including the number of customers, mobile coverage, percentage of landline infrastructure, speed, pricing, and other obligations such as anti-discrimination/net neutrality. This information is likely to expand to the resilience of networks. In the long term, the E.U. will find ways to assess the security of each operator’s network. Just as speed data is published today, safety and security data will be published in the future, e.g., number of data breaches, etc. In this way, security could become a competitive parameter like price, mobile coverage, speed, etc. Indeed, it could become a marketing point for operators to say that the network was free of malicious vendors.
Financial executives have been forced to manage their business and achieve profitability with a heavy layer of AML and CFT regulation. Telecom CEOs will likely experience this new reality when it comes to cybersecurity.
What telecommunications companies can do
The telecom industry has two choices: they can invent their process to certify network security, or they can wait for the government to impose rules. The industry should do something very quickly. There is a need to acknowledge cyber threats, and as an industry, be more visible to propose solutions and demonstrate mastery over the challenge.
Some CEOs do not want to take on the cost or effort to secure their networks from risky vendors; they claim their customers will not tolerate price increases. However, what does it say about the CEO who does not think his customers’ security is worth paying for?
The telecom industry should be forthright to customers and shareholders about cybersecurity costs. Customers expect secure communication and are willing to pay for it. If a company is not proactive about planning for cybersecurity costs, it is likely to end up paying more to respond to an attack, and in the lost time implementing a solution they should have taken from the start, they will experience lower profitability. This is what the banks experienced when it came to fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. The companies that waited to act, ended up paying more. Companies should start the dialogue today and be transparent about the cybersecurity challenge.
As the issue evolves, national security leaders and cybersecurity experts are likely to get greater visibility. They are some of the voices which bring credibility and urgency to the discussion and the need for mitigating measures.
Telecom operators need to lead in the cybersecurity challenge and be prepared with a strategy and solutions for 4G, 5G, and the IoT when it is not human users online but billions of devices.
The discussion is greater than any one country or company, and indeed Chinese tech threats are more than just Huawei. However, failing to secure networks from Huawei equipment would be like NATO buying Chinese fighter planes. NATO prohibits procurement from many countries; the question then is if fighter plane is critical infrastructure, why is the same standard not applied to telecommunications networks?
We have come a long way since Bell and Marconi. Telecommunication is the foundation of the connected world. If telecommunications infrastructure breaks down, it will have major, reverberating consequences.
In 2019, 5G became a mainstream topic and rebooted the discussion of the value that telecommunications brings to society including innovation, security, and inclusion. Consider the many transformations that the industry has delivered from the invention of the telephone. Today the digital world, including its businesses, the communications of individuals, and the operation of the public sector is predicated on the advanced infrastructure that the telecom industry provides.
Today, policymakers in the U.S. and E.U. have a lot of focus on communications network equipment from Chinese vendors. Going forward, while the media has largely focused on Huawei, the discussion should be broadened to the many companies that are owned or affiliated with the Chinese government including but not limited to TikTok, Lexmark, Lenovo, TCL, and so on.
John Strand has a background in Sales and Marketing in the IT and Publishing Sector and has been consulting on strategies, sales, and marketing since 1989. In 1995 John founded Strand Consulting solely on the telecom sector, analyzing markets and market trends, publishing reports, and holding executive workshops that have helped mobile operators, mobile services providers, etc. all over the world focus on their business strategies and maximizing the return on their investments. John is one of the best-known consultants in the business. Being honest – and giving his honest opinion on current issues in the telecom industry has become John’s trademark – even when it means being controversial or treading on a toe or two…
To contact John Strand, email: [email protected]
Cathy Borten comes from a family with a deep connection to the law profession. That background led to a career — indeed, a life — devoted to performing the legal work that has made many, many wireless systems possible.
Her father, who passed away in 2014, was a lawyer and graduate from Washington and Lee University Law School, as are her uncle and nephew. From an incredibly early age, six to be exact, she began talking about the profession with her father, Leonard “Curly” Greenebaum, who was a managing partner in the high-profile practice of Sachs, Greenebaum & Tayler in Washington, D.C.
“I admired him more than I could ever say,” Borten said. “I was fascinated by his job. And I spent all of high school and all of my college years laser-focused on becoming a lawyer.” Because of her family connections, she grew up knowing a judge who would become her mentor. A life in law seem preordained.
After graduating from college, she took a seven-year detour as a media buyer and marketing director, but at the urging of the Judge Paul H. Weinstein, who was a family friend, she followed the family tradition and entered Washington and Lee University. Upon graduation, she clerked for Judge Weinstein in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland.
In 1996, although she was offered a job in a high-powered D.C. law firm, Borten opted not to follow her father’s path. She instead joined smaller firm with four partners and two associates — Abrams, West, Storm & Diamond (AWSD). She was in her 30s and wanted to raise a family.
“I had just seen too many women wind up in this situation where they were really torn between working for these big law firms and taking care of their families, and they couldn’t meet anybody’s expectations,” Borten said.
That firm’s diverse client base, which included developers, Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems (BAMS) and the City of Gaithersburg, Maryland, would begin a career-long education for Borten as she became immersed in multiple points of view in the zoning and permitting of wireless structures.
“One day, one of the partners, M. Gregg (MG) Diamond, asked me to help with a BAMS appeal, which led to me working with him consistently on all of the wireless work that we had,” she said. “It started out just like a lease here and there, or a special exception for zoning here and there. And it wound up really becoming an ongoing, very volume-intense matter.”
The next big change for Borten came when the City of Gaithersburg, which was growing at a fast clip, decided to bring its city attorney in house. She left the firm and became city attorney where 90 percent of her work entailed land use zoning and planning.
“I maintained, just by extension, my connection with the wireless world, as tower companies and wireless carriers would come in with applications for sites,” she said.
Borten’s former colleague, Diamond, left AWSD to start his own firm, the Law Office of M. Gregg Diamond, in Bethesda. After her stint with the city, Borten rejoined Diamond at his new firm.
“So, most people will tell you a lawyer alone is not a great scenario, because you need to be able to bounce things off of other attorneys,” Borten said. “MG was always that person for me. I just had so much respect for him, and he was just such a great mentor.”
She worked at the two-person law firm from home from 2007 to 2018, and during that time she and her husband raised two children who are now in college. She performed the leasing and zoning and land use work for a major carrier and related work with a tower company in the area, which included macro and rooftop sites and indoor DAS, as well as the early stages of outdoor DAS. Her work included hospitals, hotels and federal secure office buildings, even the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (home of Dr. Fauci!).
“When I started out, in-building wireless was a small market,” Borten said. “It forced me to learn about so many different indoor environments. Indoor wireless ended up being a value-added proposition for the landlord and a tremendous piece of business for us.”
Borten performed the legal work for the DAS that is deployed in the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, which was the gift that just kept on giving.
“The airport is just a piece of the airport authority, and all these different levels that must give approval for changes,” she said. “It was a third party putting in the system, so we had to make sure that what they were doing was going to work for our client, which was a carrier. We worked on this lease for years, because it was always being amended to add new phases.”
In 2018, as her youngest went off to college, Borten was ready for a change. She reached out to an attorney she knew from her days as city attorney, Jody Kline, about an open position at Miller Miller & Canby. She is now in the firm’s real estate practice group and has found leasing experience in wireless to be helpful on the real estate side. But she keeps her hand in wireless, working with site acquisition companies and carriers, and she is now licensed to practice in Virginia.
The Importance of Connections
Borten acknowledges the importance of her longtime relationships with many people in the legal, land use and wireless worlds during her career.
“I think the relationship side is beyond critical,” she said. “My relationships have always helped me get to the next level in my legal career. Who knew when I left the law firm to become the city attorney that I would go back and work with MG again for 11 years?” she said.
Timing has also been essential to her success. When she started working with Abrams, West, Storm & Diamond, wireless was still in its second generation, and very few women were in land use and zoning. In fact, there were not that many women working in telecom in general. She got in on wireless early. She eventually would help develop the ordinances that would accommodate outdoor small cells.
In 2014, when Borten was at The Law Offices of M. Gregg Diamond, Montgomery County was rewriting its whole zoning ordinance. The telecom ordinances were so outdated and cumbersome that they lagged behind the pace of wireless technology.
“We wanted the opportunity to update them. Any time the size of the antennas changed, there had to be a new amendment. I had the opportunity to help draft the original small cell provisions of the zoning ordinance,” she said.
Borten couldn’t have foreseen her life in wireless when she chose a small Maryland law firm instead of a large Washington, D.C., firm, but she has had an impact on wireless as it moved from 2G to 5G. She has spent her career zoning and permitting macrotowers, facilitating indoor DAS networks and working to keep ordinances from impeding the progress of wireless technology. Along the way, she has earned the respect of many long-term colleagues. She has had, it seems, a wonderful life in wireless.