What can we learn from the news of Long Island, NY-based Aventura Technologies selling tainted Chinese equipment to the United States Military while claiming it was made in the U.S.?
“As alleged, the defendants falsely claimed for years that their surveillance and security equipment was manufactured on Long Island, padding their pockets with money from lucrative contracts without regard for the risk to our country’s national security posed by secretly peddling made-in-China electronics with known cyber vulnerabilities,” United States Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement.
In at least one case, according to the complaint, the U.S. Navy ordered a night vision camera from Aventura for delivery to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. The camera that was delivered, the complaint alleges, was imported from China despite the company saying it was U.S.-made.
Since November 2010, Aventura’s revenues have exceeded more than $88 million, including more than $20 million from federal government contracts, court papers say.
Among the items sold to the United States government by Aventura were 25 body cameras to the U.S. Air Force to be used by security personnel at a United States air base, turnstiles to be installed at a U.S. Department of Energy facility in Tennessee, and a night vision camera to the U.S. Navy which was delivered to the U.S. Submarine base at Groton, Connecticut, prosecutors say.
“There is no mistaking the cyber vulnerabilities created when this company sold electronic surveillance products made in the [People's Republic of China], and then using those items in our government agencies and the branches of our armed forces,” said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney.
Navy spokesman Lt. Tim Pietrack said that all affected commands have been notified and the equipment will be removed and replaced. Currently, it does not appear that any equipment purchased from Aventura was placed on Navy warships, Pietrack said in a statement.
According to a Navy official, six closed circuit television cameras were purchased to be used on a Navy supply vessel.
The bottom line is Chinese equipment was sold to private customers as well as the U.S. Military. It was used in very sensitive areas of the military and government. It could be used by the Chinese government to spy on the U.S., while divulging trade secrets.
There are two major issues to consider.
How could the U.S. military not be aware of this scam? It should be easy enough to audit the company’s supply chain and prove the products were not made in the U.S. It seems like a basic concept to ensue national security.
Also, if Chinese equipment is a concern for the military – what about the millions of companies and homes who have Chinese-made security and tech equipment in their homes?
By definition, all Chinese companies are owned by the government and bound by its laws and requests.
In other words, have we gotten to a point where we have allowed the world’s tech equipment – iPhones, Macs, Dell computers, Android phones, etc., to potentially allow the Chinese to listen in?
Cybersecurity is difficult enough to deal with when you know your equipment doesn’t have potential back doors. If you lose control of the underlying firmware of your devices then anything is possible and information can be leaked out and ransomware and other infections can easily be inserted into your operations later.
In all, the news of alleged fraud in this case regarding the origin of the surveillance equipment should be a major eye-opener for the nation’s tech, spy and cybersecurity communities.