Chinese telecoms kit makers Huawei and ZTE failed to allay the long standing national security concerns of Congressmen surrounding their access to the US market, at a high profile hearing in Washington on Thursday, reports The Register.
Thursday’s hearing was held as part of an investigation launched by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee to find if Huawei and ZTE posed a security threat to the nation
Chairman Mike Rogers kicked things off (pdf) by explaining that the “on-going onslaught” of network intrusions originating in China are “almost certainly the work of, or done at the backing of, the Chinese government”, and that the PRC has the motive to tamper with the global telecoms supply chain.
“We have heard reports about backdoors or unexplained beaconing from the equipment sold by both companies. And our sources overseas tell us that there is a reason to question whether the companies are tied to the Chinese government or whether their equipment is as it appears,” he added.
“Huawei and ZTE provide a wealth of opportunities for Chinese intelligence agencies to insert malicious hardware or software implants into critical telecommunications components and systems. And under Chinese law, ZTE and Huawei would likely be required to cooperate with any request by the Chinese government to use their systems or access for malicious purposes.”
Critics say the investigation is really more of a cover for trade protection issues.
And if there are backdoors and so on then of course the kit should be banned from being installed right away. It does seems a little odd that the committee is relying on “reports” of such backdoors or beaconing as well. The US has rather large and efficient spy services itself who would be able to strip down such equipment and prove matters either way.
Huawei’s senior vice-president Charles Ding strongly defended his company’s case in front of the U.S. lawmakers (pdf):
“Huawei has not and will not jeopardise our global commercial success nor the integrity of our customers’ networks for any third party, government or otherwise. We will never do anything that undermines that trust. It would be immensely foolish for Huawei to risk involvement in national security or economic espionage.”
It reiterated the sentiments by John Suffolk, former U.K. government chief information officer and currently Huawei’s global security officer, in a report which stated that the firm would “never… tolerate such activities” such as hacking or espionage.
Would anyone be surprised if there were significant espionage on both sides? These hearings may be a double edge sword. That’s what makes them interesting!