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The US continues to accuse Huawei of espionage, now urges allies to do the same

Trump’s administration is now aggressively pushing against the use of Huawei equipment in network and telecommunications, with Attorney General William Barr advising US allies to orient themselves towards the use of gear provided by Huawei rivals, such as Nokia Corp. and Ericsson AB. According to The Wall Street Journal, US intelligence has had data that Huawei possessed access to backdoors in network equipment through which spying can occur for more than a decade. In consequence, US officials are alleging that Huawei is a security threat and is illegally collecting information.

However, Huawei is actively refusing such allegations. In an interview with WSJ reporters, Huawei’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei, is comparing Huawei with a car manufacturer in the sense that it only sells the equipment and it's up to clients to decide what to put in the trunk. He states that the carriers manage the gadgets sold by Huawei and that the company doesn’t control the equipment.

When you are an infrastructure vendor in Europe, you are required by law to provide a built-in capability of a lawful interception of traffic, a function to be used by law-enforcement agencies, which allows access to communication after a warrant or a court order. Thus, all telecom-equipment makers have to create such a backdoor, but they are required to make sure they do not have access to it without consent of the network operator. Such access is to be granted by laws, governed by each country’s legislation.

That’s exactly where US officials are accusing Huawei of unlawful conduct. US officials, for example national security adviser Robert O’Brien, have stated they possess proof that Huawei has the capability to access sensitive and personal information via its systems. However, officials are refusing to say whether they have evidence that Huawei has been caught using this capability. Proof about this backdoor access has not been publicly disclosed, meanwhile US officials say that its existence has been observed since 2009.

In the past, the US stated that they did not need to offer any proof backing up the espionage accusations, given the fact that Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government automatically classifies the company as a potential security threat. Officials also stated that, as a Chinese company, Huawei doesn’t have the possibility to not comply with any demands made by the Chinese government.

Recently, however, US officials have decided that they need to do more than just accuse Huawei of being a threat to national security. Some details about the acquired proof for the allegations have been shared with the United Kingdom and Germany.

Foreign countries have to decide whether they are willing to gamble with the alleged security threat in order to use Huawei’s high-quality equipment and competitive prices.

Last month, British officials decided they are still willing to allow Huawei’s network equipment to function in their country, in spite of the information provided by the US, and stated that the intel is nothing new and had already been analysed and taken into consideration.

London-based Vodafone Group PLC stated that there was no indication that network vendors had unauthorized access.

Meanwhile, some German officials have been convinced by the US about the alleged security threat, posed by Huawei, while others are not too worried about it.

Former NSA official, Curtis W. Dukes, who now works as a cybersecurity consultant, said the possibility for a vendor to gain unauthorized access into networks is present, but denied knowing of such occurrence.

We still don’t know whether the allegations are backed-up by substantial evidence as none has been publicly disclosed yet, and it’s unknown whether US officials will decide to share some of their data with the general public. It’s possible that the US will continue urging allies to use Huawei’s rivals in networking, although this doesn’t seem to worry Huawei. Its CEO stated that they can survive and that even after those accusations, he still likes America and American moral standards have been embedded in Huawei’s employees’ minds ever since the beginning.

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