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.

News

Browse safely and securely with Opera’s unlimited VPN on Android

Opera has added a new VPN to its Android browser, offering an easy way to keep your privacy and data locked up solid, and with no limits on usage or cost, you can keep it on all the time.
Computing

The U.S. government plans to drop $500M on a ridiculously powerful supercomputer

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced plans to build a $500 million exascale supercomputer by 2021. The project, known as the Aurora supercomputer, is expected to boost research efforts in fields such as public health.
Social Media

New Zealand attack shows that as A.I. filters get smarter, so do violators

The shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand were livestreamed to social media, and while stats show networks are improving at removing offending videos, as the system improves, so do the violators' workarounds.
Mobile

Huawei has a bold Plan B should tensions affect its software relationships

Huawei has its own software for smartphones and computers prepared, should its relationship with Google and Microsoft be adversely affected by ongoing tensions between it and the U.S..
Mobile

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G might be a few short weeks away from launch

Samsung has announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show as it's among the first 5G-ready smartphones to hit the market.
Computing

T-Mobile goes after big cable companies, pilots wireless home internet service

In a shot at big cable companies, T-Mobile is launching a new pilot program to bring an unlimited wireless LTE home internet service to up to 50,000 homes across the United States by the end of 2019.
Mobile

Apple patent suggests Apple Watch bands could have built-in fitness indicators

Apple may be exploring ways to make Apple Watch bands a little more useful. A new patent has been filed by Apple that suggests Apple Watch bands could eventually have indicators for things like fitness goals.
Mobile

Type away on the best iPad keyboard cases, from the Mini to the Pro

Whether you're looking to replace your laptop with a tablet or merely want to increase your typing speed, a physical iPad keyboard is the perfect companion to the iPad. Check out our top picks for every available iPad model.
Mobile

Apple patents hint at improved Apple Store and unboxing experiences

It looks like Apple is working on ways to improve the Apple Store and product unboxing experiences. The company has been awarded a few patents, largely for tech that can be used in product packaging to ensure products stay charged.
Wearables

Fossil made a smartwatch in 2004, and it’s part of a new brand retrospective

Fossil has been making watches for 35 years, and to celebrate the anniversary, it has a new retrospective exhibit complete with the first smartwatch it made — the Wrist Net watch from 2004.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for March 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Wearables

Fossil is working on a smartwatch with BMW, and it’s coming next year

Fossil, the watch company that makes smartwatches under its own name and partners with other major brands too, intends to launch a smartwatch with car manufacturer BMW in the future.
Social Media

A Facebook, Instagram bug exposed millions of passwords to its employees

Facebook, Facebook Lite, and Instagram passwords weren't properly encrypted and could be viewed by employees, the company said Thursday. The network estimates millions of users were affected.
Mobile

Nokia phones are being investigated for allegedly sending data to China

Nokia could be in some hot water. According to recent reports, Nokia 7 models may be secretly sending data to China without the user knowing about it. Nokia says that the issue was a software bug and that it has been fixed.