Cisco berates US government over router tampering


Cisco's legal counsel has blasted the US government over accusations the NSA has been tampering with communications equipment.

The spy agency has reportedly been intercepting shipments of routers, switches and servers in order to hide their surveillance equipment.

Writing in a blog post, Cisco's legal counsel Mark Chandler said that the actions of the US government have overreached, "undermining the goals of free communication".

We expect our government to value and respect this trust.

"Confidence in the open, global internet has brought enormous economic benefits to the United States and to billions around the world," said Chandler.

"This confidence has been eroded by revelations of government surveillance, by efforts of the US government to force US companies to provide access to communications of non-US citizens even when that violates the privacy laws of countries where US companies do business, and allegations that governments exploit rather than report security vulnerabilities in products."

Chandler said that it was Cisco's policy and practice not to work with any government, the US included, to weaken its products.

"When we learn of a security vulnerability, we respond by validating it, informing our customers, and fixing it.

"We react the same when we find that a customer's security has been impacted by external forces, regardless of what country or form of government or how that security breach occurred. We offer customers robust tools to defend their environments against attack, and detect attacks when they are happening. By doing these things, we have built and maintained our customers' trust.

"We expect our government to value and respect this trust."

Last December, eight technology companies expressed concern to US President Barack Obama and Congress that the US government's surveillance efforts as revealed by Snowden were harmful.

Chandler said that the revelations over hardware tampering were damaging and his firm should not expect the government to act in this manner.

"We comply with US laws, like those of many other countries, which limit exports to certain customers and destinations," said Chandler.

"We ought to be able to count on the government to then not interfere with the lawful delivery of our products in the form in which we have manufactured them. To do otherwise, and to violate legitimate privacy rights of individuals and institutions around the world, undermines confidence in our industry."

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.