Qualcomm CEO says China 'constantly' attacks it

Hackers could threaten national security, allows enemies abroad to access technology for use in cyber warfare.

QUALCOMM CEO Paul Jacobs 370 (photo credit: Niv Elis)
QUALCOMM CEO Paul Jacobs 370
(photo credit: Niv Elis)
Chinese hackers constantly attack Qualcomm and have broken into its networks in the past, visiting CEO Paul Jacobs said Tuesday.
“If there’s going to be state-sponsored hacking, then the amount of resources that we can put up against it are probably insufficient,” he told reporters at Qualcomm’s IQ2013 convention, being held in Tel Aviv for the first time.
Though the Israeli government is taking the right steps to combat the cyber attacks meant to steal proprietary information or, worse, gain access to technology for use in cyber warfare, governments can do more to build defenses. One avenue, Jacobs said, is to create a clearinghouse for companies to share information on cyber attacks, though doing so may require softening privacy laws. Existing regulation blocks companies from being able to check from which server cyber attacks originate, he said.
The competing issues of privacy and security are rife in the technological future Qualcomm is pursuing.
The chipmaker’s guiding light is a concept called the “Internet of Everything,” in which every day, ordinary devices will be upgraded to communicate with each other and with their users. Whether it be the dryer sending you a notification on your television when your clothes are ready, or your car letting passengers play music from their phones when they get in, the creation of a hyperconnected future carries both awesome uses and dangerous vulnerabilities.
From a privacy perspective, more integration simply means more devices recording where you go, who you see, what you do and what you buy. From a personal security point of view, however, it also means new multitudes of entry points for hackers.
And from a national security point of view, it could mean that enemies abroad have ways to shut down entire systems.
The trend of malware is already heading toward the mobile sector and is expected to grow in the future, according to security company Symantec.
“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” Jacobs said. “In the current generation of cyber defense, probably the best thing we can do from the standpoint of our business is to innovate as best we can.”
To that end, Qualcomm is growing its security-related work in Israel.
“Obviously it’s an area with a lot of demand for talent,” Jacobs said.
Qualcomm’s 20-year investment in the country goes far beyond security as well. It has snatched up a variety of Israeli technology companies, including iSkoot, DesignArt and EPOS. It has an active investment fund that has supported, among other ventures, the blockbuster crowd-sourcing traffic app Waze. Facebook is reportedly in late-stage talks to buy Waze for as much as a billion dollars. Qualcomm’s main development center in Haifa is one of four in Israel.
“We’re going to continue to grow,” Jacobs said. In fact, he said, Israel has enough assets that it can afford to get away with the recent increases in corporate taxes and proposed amendments to the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investments.
“Countries can get away with charging premium tax rates if there’s a reason,” Jacobs said. “In Israel, there’s certainly rule of law, talent, critical mass, mind-set. All the reasons why it’s startup nation are reasons that you would invest anyway.”
But even Israel should be careful, he said, adding: “Tax policy is a reason you do things, but it’s not the only reason you do things. But just like the US, there are only so many reasons to invest.”