Huawei: No government is forcing us to spy

Huawei: No government is forcing us to spy

Summary: The Chinese technology giant digs in its claws at governments who it claims criticized it without merit — the same governments which are at the same time buying zero-day exploits to attack targets.

TOPICS: Networking
(Image via CNET)

One thing we can be certain of: the U.S. government "spies," in one way or another, thanks to the stream of leaks dished out by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Huawei, despite having the collective finger of the U.S. Congress pointed at it for similar alleged behavior, continues to deny that it has a role in any surveillance or espionage activities.

In the latest missive from the Chinese telecoms equipment provider, Huawei's deputy chairman Ken Hu offered two clear-cut statements [PDF] denying any involvement in any nefarious government spying:

"We can confirm that we have never received any instructions or requests from any Government or their agencies to change our positions, policies, procedures, hardware, software or employment practices or anything else, other than suggestions to improve our end-to-end cyber security capability."

And in part two:

"We can confirm that we have never been asked to provide access to our technology, or provide any data or information on any citizen or organization to any Government, or their agencies."

That's about as straight forward as one can get. There's a small catch though, at least on the U.S. side of things.

Under the two major secrecy and data-grabbing laws — the Patriot Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — Huawei wouldn't even be allowed to state if it was or wasn't under a government order.

It's why Verizon, which we know to be under a massive government surveillance request (not least because the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declassified some of it), declined to comment to ZDNet some weeks ago on whether it will challenge the court order as many other companies have done.

But this isn't about the U.S. It's about China — in particular, China spying on U.S. firms, which was the whole hubbub stirred up by members of the U.S. Congress in 2012. 

Last year, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee issued letters to both telecoms giants Huawei and ZTE stating U.S. government concerns over their connections and ties to the Chinese government. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) said in the letter the committee was "concerned" the Chinese authorities could be hacking in or attempting to breach U.S. networks through its telecoms intermediaries.

Subsequently, U.S. companies were warned off using the company's technology, along with ZTE, which was also thrown into the mix. 

The irony is under the U.S. Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, U.S. companies are forced to comply with "backdoor rules" that allow the federal authorities to gain access to equipment for wiretapping purposes.

Hu took one last swipe at the U.S., which it's all but banned from:

"...we questioned the inconsistency of message that saw some governments criticising those that they did not agree with or those who were competing with their own companies, whilst at the same time buying zero-day exploits and using technology to further their own economic and political ends at the expense of others.

Earlier this year, a Reuters special report noted the U.S. government was the biggest malware buyer globally as it boosted its cyber-arsenal in efforts to "fight back" against those who target its networks.

And that was just one month before the whole NSA ding-dong hit the public light.

Following this, documents confirmed the U.S. spy agency bought hacking tools from French company Vupen, which allowed the federal government to snap up exploits to target zero-day vulnerabilities in systems, which have yet to be found or patched by the vendor.

Topic: Networking

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  • Part of a paragraph has finished:

    "Under the two major secrecy and data-grabbing laws — the Patriot Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — Huawei wouldn't be allowed to even state that it was or wasn't under

    It's why Verizon, which we know to be under a massive government surveillance request (not least because the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declassified some of it),
    • vanished

      • Our CMS...

        Well, trust me, I could write a blog post on that alone. Apologies. Updated. Thanks!
  • Glass houses

    On the one hand people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones so bully for Huawei for pointing out the hypocrisy. On the other hand it would be naive to assume they are telling the truth (or at least the whole truth) about their own government's role in spying.

    Yes, it sucks for Huawei to be in a position of having to prove a negative but I simply have zero doubt in my mind the Communist Chinese government would not leverage similar backdoors al la NSA.
  • While I'd like to believe them...

    Even if the allegations were true, Huawei would have to deny them. Yes, I know that U.S. companies are having similar difficulties due to our own misguided policies, but there is no such thing as free enterprise in a totalitarian state; the assumption therefore has to be that the officers of Chinese corporations are obliged to follow the orders of the Chinese Communist Party and that bad things happen to those that don't.
    John L. Ries
  • "No government is forcing us to spy"

    "we're just doing on our own as a public service, and giving the data to the authorities for free, as a public service"
  • No one's FORCING us to spy ...

    ... we like it.

    ... no one's FORCING us to not be in a government prison.

    ... we're getting paid handsomely.

    Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, etc. would probably say the same thing.
    • I under the distinct impression that...

      ...China still prefers labor camps to punish uncooperative citizens. Or Party leaders could simply order non-cooperative Huawei execs fired, in which case, they would likely be unemployable as corporate officers in the future.
      John L. Ries
      • To do the latter...

        ...the Party wouldn't even need to go though the hassle of trumping up charges; the execs would simply be fired; ostensibly by the company's board, but uncooperative directors could be removed in much the same way.
        John L. Ries
  • on the subject of chinese hacking or any other government

    China and so many governments have been hacking and snooping on us citizens, and each other for decades now. Only now that such issues have come to light do we sit up and take notice.

    Personally, I don't give a rat's assets to all this rot. It makes no difference to me whatsoever. I have nothing embarrassing or of national security. Most people have nothing worthwhile to hack or snoop into
  • Who to trust?

    So now I really have to think about this one. If I was the American government, and I couldn't get a company to put secret backdoors into their equipment, the only real option I might have is to publicly discredit them so that no one that I want to spy on installs their products. On the other hand, if anyone ever actually found a vulnerability in Huawei's technology, you can be pretty sure that their business would be dead with no chance of revival. With the American's buying zero day exploits at a record rate, perhaps American criticism is actually the highest praise possible! Or you could simply buy American and know that the backdoors exist for sure but trust that your "friends" would never use them against you.