BARCELONA — US officials blasted Chinese mobile company Huawei, describing the company as “duplicitous and deceitful” as they try and persuade allied governments to ban the firm from their 5G networks.
America’s top cyber official, Robert Strayer, told reporters at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday that Huawei and other Chinese firms could not be trusted and could be forced to hand over data to the Communist Party without “democratic checks and balances.”
Strayer said: “The United States is asking other governments and the private sector to consider the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese information technology companies.
“Chinese laws require these firms to support and assist Beijing’s mass security apparatus without any democratic checks and balances on access to or use of data that touches the network or equipment…”
Business Insider has reached out to Huawei for comment on Strayer’s remarks, but has yet to hear back.
Strayer’s timing is particularly awkward, given that Huawei has a massive presence at Mobile World Congress and is pushing its 5G technologies hard to a massive gathering of telecommunications providers and government representatives. High-ranking officials have given keynotes about Huawei’s 5G capabilities, while signs and banners bearing the company’s logo dominate the conference.
Strayer’s remarks came just hours after Huawei’s rotating chairman, Guo Ping, gave a keynote at Mobile World Congress emphasising that his firm did not install backdoors into its equipment. He accused the US government of having “no evidence, nothing” for its allegations of spying, and implied the US government spies on overseas citizens through its newly introduced Cloud Act.
Strayer was flanked at the briefing by other senior US officials, including FCC Chair Ajit Pai, and Defense Department official Lisa Porter. All, he said, were talking to the private sector and governments at Mobile World Congress.
Strayer refused to say whether the US had substantial proof that Huawei had built backdoors into its equipment that would allow the Chinese government to spy on its adversaries.
“We have substantial concerns about them,” he said.”We are constantly talking to other governments about this.”
Strayer said Huawei had displayed a worrying pattern of behaviour that justified American concerns. He pointed to the indictment against Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, for allegedly violating US trade sanctions against Iran, and a second indictment concerning allegations of intellectual property theft from US telecommunications provider T-Mobile.
“We know that Huawei itself has been duplicitous and deceitful, they are under indictment [at the] highest levels of their company in the United States for violating our Iran sanctions regime,” Strayer said. “They’re also under indictment for intellectual property theft.”
Strayer also pointed more generally to China’s behaviour, citing international governments’ concerns around an attack on managed service providers at the end of 2018, thought to have originated in China.
He leaned heavily on a 2018 UK intelligence report on the use of Huawei’s equipment in the UK as well. That report concluded that there was “limited assurance that all risks to UK national security” from Huawei had been mitigated. The UK is due to release an updated report for 2019 on Huawei in the coming weeks.
Strayer concluded: “Really, do you want to have a system potentially compromised by the Chinese government or would you rather go with a more secure alternative?” He added that governments were better off relying on kit from Western companies.
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