Earlier this month, a report by the House of Representatives intelligence panel accused Chinese technology firms Huawei and ZTE of being a threat to US national security, due to their ties with the Chinese government, and urged US companies not to do business with them.
Now, Reuters has published details of a security review commissioned by the White House on Huawei, which concludes that there is “no clear evidence that Huawei had spied for China.” The quote comes from unnamed sources who’re familiar with the new investigation, and when Huawei was approached for comment, it told Reuters that it had no knowledge of the probe, but wasn’t surprised about the lack of evidence any spying had taken place.
The inquiry is said to be a “thorough review” of Huawei’s business and included interviews with a thousand telecom industry insiders who had dealings with the company. It’s not indicated when the review will be published, if at all, or if the intelligence panel’s report has exposed any further evidence relevant to the investigation.
One of the sources claims “certain parts of the government really wanted evidence of active spying,” but adds “we would have found it if it were there.” Hard evidence was absent from the intelligence panel’s damning report, although the chairman has indicated it exists in classified documents.
The new investigation doesn’t clear Huawei completely though, as it says the company’s hardware still poses a threat to security due to vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. The anonymous sources leaking the information didn’t state whether the report believed these had been inserted intentionally.
One network security consultant says the vulnerabilities “appeared to be the result of sloppy coding and poor procedures, rather than any deliberate attempt at espionage.” Others aren’t as forgiving, and Reuters quotes an unnamed computer scientist as saying the “back doors were inserted with care.” Huawei has been made aware of the problems and is said to be examining them.
The White House’s report echoes a statement given by the UK government’s Cabinet Office, where a spokesperson said there were no security concerns related to Huawei, but added it’s in the process of examining the company’s business in the country.
As the fallout from the House of Representatives report continues, analysts speaking to the Associated Press warned that while security is a “legitimate concern when assessing foreign investment in areas such as telecoms,” there is a danger “protectionist sentiments” could harm “Chinese companies that pose no threat.”
Huawei and ZTE have denied allegations of espionage.