Chinese phone manufacturers Huawei and ZTE could pose security threat to United States

Huawei Logo Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/BloombergWhile the Huawei P1 S and the ZTE Grand X won’t be challenging the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3 for the honor of being the top-selling smartphone in the U.S. anytime soon, the two Chinese companies have been accused of being a threat of a different nature by a congressional committee.

A report penned by the House of Representatives intelligence panel, set to be released later today, voices concerns regarding Huawei and ZTE’s ties with the Chinese government and military. It states that “China has the means, opportunity and motive to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes,” and continues with “based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”

CBS News included a lengthy segment about the report on October 7’s 60 Minutes program, bringing Huawei’s name into households where it would have previously never have been known, and highlighting the government’s concerns.

The concern doesn’t seem to be related to either company’s smartphone or tablet lines, but about its network infrastructure products, of which Huawei is the world’s second largest producer. According to CBS, the committee is worried that the Chinese government could use any Huawei infrastructure installed in the US “to intercept high level communications, gather intelligence, wage cyber war, and shut down or disrupt critical services in times of national emergency.”

Firms warned to “look elsewhere”

Member of Congress Mike Rogers, who heads up the committee, warns that U.S. firms considering working with Huawei should look elsewhere “if you care about your consumers privacy, and you care about the national security of the USA.”

Naturally, both Huawei and ZTE have denied these charges, with Huawei’s VP of External Relations in the US saying “Huawei is Huawei, Huawei is not China,” and that there has been “10 years of misinformation and innuendo” surrounding the company. ZTE responded to claims that suspicious “back doors” and “beaconing” had been discovered in its network hardware, calling them “software bugs” and communications to enable self-repair in the event of a malfunction.

None of this is particularly new, and Huawei has encountered similar problems in the past. It was blocked from bidding on 3com in 2008 and from purchasing server manufacturer 3Leaf last year, and both Sprint and AT&T have been asked not to use Huawei’s equipment. Outside the USA, Australia banned Huawei from bidding on a lucrative broadband project earlier this year too.

The use of Huawei’s network equipment in the UK is often cited as proof that the U.S. is merely paranoid about the Chinese company. However, on the advice of British Intelligence, a joint “Cyber Security Evaluation Centre” was setup to test all Huawei’s equipment and software before its installation, which has reportedly gone on to be used by other countries interested in Huawei’s hardware, including New Zealand.

Business is booming, regardless of controversy

So what has Huawei, and to a lesser extent ZTE, done to deserve all this negative attention? In Huawei’s case, notoriously media-shy founder and former member of the People’s Liberation Army, Ren Zhengfei, certainly doesn’t help, and neither do ties to state-run Chinese banks, failure to supply requested documentation, and accusations of IP theft from the likes of Motorola and Cisco.

Leaving aside the political aspects of this story, will banning Huawei and ZTE’s equipment help keep sensitive U.S. communications private? Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at Cambridge University told The Economist that it would likely only provide a false sense of security, after all, almost all other similar companies use equipment produced in China anyway. It’s a fair point, but unfortunately, it’s not difficult to imagine governments — Chinese or otherwise — using communication networks to spy on citizens or other governments, so the paranoia — justified or otherwise — will remain.

Despite all this, business is on the up. Globally, Huawei reported $32.4 billion in revenue last year, with $1.3 billion coming solely from the US, which was up from $765 million the year before. A total of 70-percent of its business comes from international markets, and the company has recently announced £1.3 billion of investment in the UK’s mobile infrastructure, along with a plan to almost double its 800-strong workforce to 1,500 by 2017.

Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?

Samsung patents show what Infinity-O display could look like on Galaxy S10

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.

An IP address vulnerability took down some Google services for 1 hour

It might have been for just a brief hour, but some of Google's services went down on November 12. Caused by an improper rerouting of IP addresses and traffic away from usual western sources, Spotify and Google Cloud were impacted.

Apple applies for a patent on a wrap-around iPhone display

Previously, Apple was awarded a patent for a foldable phone, and the company has been rumored to be working on one. But it's not at all similar to other concepts. Here's everything we know about a folding iPhone.

How does fast charging work? Here’s every single standard compared

Modern smartphones can charge in mere minutes instead of hours. How does fast charging work? Here's a guide to the most popular standards, including Qualcomm Quick Charge, Apple fast charging, OnePlus Dash Charge, and more.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 display could be bigger than the iPhone XS Max screen

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was only released a few months ago, but Samsung is already working on a follow-up. Not much is known about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 just yet, but we do have a few details.

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…

Keep your phone organized with one of the best file managers for Android

Your smartphone has a limited amount of storage space and all sorts of files tend to accumulate if you let them. To keep things in order and find what you need, you should snag one of the best file managers for Android.

Upcoming Honor View 20 may forgo the notch for new display technology

Nearly a year after Honor released the spectacular Honor View 10, the Chinese smartphone giant appears to be hard at work on its successor, the Honor View 20. Here's everything we know about the upcoming midrange powerhouse.

The best Walmart Black Friday deals in 2018

Walmart has historically been the undisputed king of Black Friday deals. The mega-store is known for offering deals on products in almost every category, from smart TVs to children’s toys. We're combing through every deal as it is…

The Google Photos iOS app gets a bit better, now has depth control

Google updated the iOS version of the Google Photos app to now take advantage of the depth data that can be captured by the iPhone's camera in Portrait Mode. The new feature is already available in the Android app.

T-Mobile-Sprint merger could close as early as first quarter of 2019, exec says

T-Mobile and Sprint are finally merging. After a few failed attempts, the two companies announced their merger at the start of 2018. Once it's complete, the new T-Mobile could be better positioned to take on the likes of Verizon and AT&T.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…