US Intelligence Bosses Warn Against Huawei Smartphones

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Directors of the CIA, FBI, NSA urge consumers not to purchase Huawei smartphones or ZTE kit

US distrust of foreign technology vendors has increased after the heads of major American intelligence agencies warned the public not to buy products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.

And the intelligence agencies also warned against using any products from Chinese telecoms maker ZTE as well.

The US has long held a deep distrust of Chinese (and indeed Russian) products. Back in 2012 for example, Huawei and ZTE strongly denied they posed a security threat to the United States’ infrastructure.

National Security

The fresh warning against the Chinese firms came from the directors of the CIA, FBI, NSA and several other intelligence agencies.

The six intelligence bosses were speaking at the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, when they said they would not advise Americans to use products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE.

According to CNBC, all six bosses indicated they would not recommend private citizens use products from the Chinese companies.

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” FBI Director Chris Wray reportedly testified.

“That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure,” Wray said. “It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

“Huawei is aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei’s business in the US market,” a Huawei spokesman reportedly said in a statement. “Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities.”

Huawei had tried to enter the US market via a partnership with AT&T, but this was eventually cancelled.

Huawei CEO Richard Yu last month slammed American mobile carriers, accusing them of depriving customers of choice.

At the hearing, the US intelligence chiefs commended American telecom companies for their measured resistance to the Chinese companies.

“This is a challenge I think that is only going to increase, not lessen over time for us,” Adm. Michael Rogers, the NSA director reportedly said. “You need to look long and hard at companies like this.”

Western Threat?

Huawei has for years had to deny it is a threat to Western infrastructure, amid claims by some that it works with Chinese intelligence agencies.

In 2012 Huawei was banned from supplying kit for a national broadband infrastructure deployment in Australia.

And it is not just Chinese firms facing US distrust at the moment.

Last year Moscow-based security firm Kaspersky Lab found itself in the spotlight when its security products were banned by the Department of Homeland Security from use in American government agencies.

GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also warned British government departments not to use antivirus software with links to Russia – such as those of Kaspersky Lab – for systems related to national security.

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