New blow for ZTE and Huawei: Devices pulled from military base stores

Porsche Design Huawei Mate 10 review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The U.S. government and its agencies are warning against using devices made by Huawei and ZTE, claiming they may represent a security threat. Here’s what you need to know about the developing story.

Sales stopped at military bases

Devices made by Huawei and ZTE are no longer being sold at stores on U.S. military bases, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, which claims the phones and modems may present a security risk. The decision came on April 25. Pentagon spokesman Major Dave Eastburn said the hardware “may pose an unacceptable risk to the department’s personnel, and mission,” in a statement to Reuters.

The sales stoppage comes after warnings over security from U.S. intelligence agencies, which resulted in Huawei further distancing itself from the United States, and a ban on U.S. companies selling equipment to ZTE. The U.K. has also said it will not use ZTE equipment, due to added work pressure on the department monitoring Huawei equipment used in the country.

Security risks

While Huawei has faced similar perception problems in the U.S. before, the Senate Intelligence Committee in February brought considerable attention to the firm. Top officials from major U.S. intelligence agencies including the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency (NSA) suggested people should not use devices made by Chinese manufacturers Huawei or ZTE. The agency chiefs said they had “deep concerns,” over potential security risks claimed to come from using telecoms devices made by companies “beholden to foreign governments.”

The annual hearing is where threats to the United States from around the world are discussed. Cybersecurity and the use of technology in espionage repeatedly permeated the discussion. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats made the opening remarks. He said the United States is under attack from “entities using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States,” and called cyber threats one of his greatest concerns and top priorities. Coats singled out Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as posing the greatest threats.

Play by the rules

The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, said, “The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically Chinese telecoms companies like Huawei and ZTE that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government.” Burr has been a longtime opponent of Huawei and other Chinese telecoms companies in the United States, dating back to at least 2010 when he and other senators advocated blocking Sprint from using Huawei infrastructure in its network.

Burr asked numerous officials to share their thoughts. CNBC reports that six individuals said they would not recommend private citizens use products from Huawei or ZTE. Reuters reported that when questioned, the intelligence officials said they personally would not use a Huawei or ZTE product. In the South China Morning Post, it’s stated that Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas asked officials if they would recommend purchasing a Huawei or ZTE product, and none raised their hand.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia identified Huawei and ZTE as “leading market players globally,” and added: “Most Americans have not heard of all of these companies. But as they enter Western economic markets, we want to ensure they play by the rules. We need to makes sure that this is not a new way for China to gain access to sensitive technology.” Concern over the possible security implications of Chinese smartphones and telecoms equipment is not new, and debate previously raged in 2012.

No risk

In a statement given to CNBC, Huawei said: “Huawei is aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei’s business in the U.S. market. 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.”

ZTE USA told Digital Trends in an official statement: “ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the U.S. market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, working with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhering to the highest business standards. Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate U.S.-made chipsets, U.S.-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our U.S. suppliers, U.S. customers, and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs.”

Both Huawei and ZTE sell smartphones and other connected devices in the United States, but neither are widely known. Huawei attempted to change this with the Mate 10 Pro smartphone and a deal with AT&T and Verizon, where the device would be sold through the carriers. However, the AT&T deal fell through before it could be announced, and Verizon is also rumored to have pulled out, each potentially due to political pressure.

Updated on May 3: Added in news of Huawei and ZTE devices no longer being sold on military bases.

Mobile

Huawei’s not-so-subtly trolling the iPhone launch today

Apple launches the iPhone XS range to the public today, but Huawei is out in force to remind the public what they could be missing out on -- hint: It's the Mate 20 Pro -- by choosing Apple's latest smartphone.
Business

Report: President Trump to spare Apple from tariffs on Chinese goods

According to a new report, Apple and other tech firms may be spared from the Trump administration's upcoming tariffs on Chinese goods. While devices like the Apple Watch were on a preliminary list, they have reportedly been removed.
Emerging Tech

Is California going to launch its own satellite to monitor climate change?

California Governor Jerry Brown is serious about dealing with climate change. At a recent summit, he announced his plans for the state to launch a satellite in order to help monitor and fight climate change.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Mobile

88 percent of the $800-plus smartphones sold last quarter were iPhones

Apple may not sell as many smartphones as Samsung overall, but according to a new report that varies depending on price. The company sold 43 percent of all smartphones over $400, and 88 percent of those over $800 last quarter.
Mobile

How to clean your iPhone’s charging port

What happens when your iPhone charger doesn't work? It's time to look at the charging port. Here's how to clean your iPhone's charging port: We'll go over the most successful methods and the safety tips you need to know.
Photography

Joby’s tiny tripods double as selfie sticks and hide four different modes

The Joby TelePod models are more than just compact tripods -- they also double as hand grips, selfie sticks, and tabletop tripods. Designed to accommodate smaller gear like smartphones and lightweight mirrorless, the tripods use a unique…
Mobile

Which new iPhone is the best? iPhone XS vs. iPhone XS Max vs. iPhone XR

Apple has three new iPhone models to choose from this year, making the choice a little harder than usual. What's the difference between the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR, and which is best?
Mobile

Here's the Samsung Galaxy S9's new Android 9.0 Pie interface

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are here. The flagship devices boast some awesome new features and a powerful new processor. Here's everything you need to know about these Samsung phones.
Wearables

WatchOS 5 comes with tons of new features -- here are our favorites

Months after Apple announced its latest software at WWDC, you can now download WatchOS for the Apple Watch. WatchOS 5 brings a number of new features including new watch faces and improved health tracking.
Photography

To post or not to post? Here's when you should put up a picture on the 'Gram

Let's be honest, the majority of us care about the popularity of our Instagram posts. There is a sweet spot, however, if you're looking to boost the number of likes and comments you receive. Here's what you need to know.
Mobile

Our favorite tips and tricks to help you master your Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Apple's not the only game in town when it comes to productivity tablets. Samsung's Galaxy Tab S4 has all the features you'll need to get work done. Here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4.
Social Media

Instagram could separate hashtags for less annoying posts

Just what features will Instagram add next? One enthusiast reverse engineered the app to uncover several potential features the app could be testing, including a dedicated spot for hashtags and geofencing.
Computing

Smart Reply not smart enough? Desktop Gmail users can soon opt out

Google will soon give desktop Gmail users the ability to opt out of Smart Reply. If you'd prefer to compose a short email the old-fashioned way, you can do so without seeing the auto-generated suggestions in the future.