Telecom Lead America: A White House-ordered review of security risks posed by suppliers to U.S. telecommunications companies found no clear evidence that Huawei Technologies Ltd had spied for China.
Instead, those leading the 18-month review concluded early this year that relying on Huawei was risky for other reasons, such as the presence of vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.
Reuters reported that these findings support parts of a U.S. congressional report last week that warned against allowing Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE Corp to supply critical telecom infrastructure.
But it may douse speculation that Huawei has been caught spying for China.
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Some questions remain unanswered. For example, it is unclear if security vulnerabilities found in Huawei equipment were placed there deliberately. It is also not clear whether any critical new intelligence emerged after the inquiry ended.
Aided by intelligence agencies and other departments, those conducting the largely classified White House inquiry delved into reports of suspicious activity and asked detailed questions of nearly 1,000 telecom equipment buyers, according to the people familiar with the probe.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment on the review. A spokesman for Huawei said the company was not familiar with the review but it was not surprised that no evidence of Huawei espionage was found.
Last week’s report from the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence Committee noted the potential for spying through Huawei gear installed to manage traffic on wireless networks. The committee also criticized Huawei’s leadership for failing to provide details about its relationships with Chinese government agencies.
The House Intelligence Committee’s report did not present concrete evidence that either Huawei or ZTE have stolen U.S. data, although it said a classified annex provided significantly more information adding to the committee’s concerns about the risk to the United States.
Reuters interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. government officials and contractors found nearly unanimous agreement that Huawei’s equipment poses risks: The company could send software updates that siphon off vast amounts of communications data or shut them down in times of conflict.
More than anything else, cyber experts complained about what they said was poor programming that left Huawei equipment more open than that of rivals to hacking by government agents or third parties.