Cisco to President Obama: Stop compromising our gear

By Graeme Burton
19 May 2014 View Comments
Cisco's John Chambers

Cisco CEO John Chambers has written to President Obama to demand that the US government stop compromising its products. Chambers also called for new "standards of conduct" to stop intelligence agencies from going too far in their surveillance efforts.

The letter was sent the day after pictures appeared featuring National Security Agency (NSA) staff breaking open boxes containing Cisco networking equipment so that they could install surveillance devices. The boxes are then re-sealed so that customers cannot tell that they have been tampered with.

Further reading

The pictures appear in lawyer-turned-journalist Glenn Greewald's new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State, which is based on leaks revealing the extent of US internet surveillance and spying activities by NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The letter, which itself was leaked to the Financial Times, complains that the NSA is undermining confidence in US designed and made technology. "We simply cannot operate this way, our customers trust us to be able to deliver to their doorsteps products that meet the highest standards of integrity and security," the letter from Chambers states.

A Cisco spokesperson confirmed that the letter had been sent.

The letter continues: "... if these allegations [about NSA tampering with equipment in transit] are true, these actions will undermine confidence in our industry and in the ability of technology companies to deliver products globally... we are concerned that our country's global technological leadership will be impaired."

Already, Cisco claims that sales to customers in some markets have been affected by the continuing stream of NSA-led internet spying revelations. Cisco is more exposed than most US companies as it supplies networking equipment used by internet service providers and major organisations. Many potential customers are selecting rival products from European and, in particular, China-based companies instead.

In his letter, dated 15 May, Chambers asked the President "to take more steps and a leadership role to ensure that guidelines and reforms are put into place that can be honoured across the globe".

The result of a failure to rein-in the NSA could be a globally fragmented internet, he warned.

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