Huawei in cybersecurity pledge: 'We're not Chinese spies'

Chinese telecoms maker Huawei has issued a report pledging to never co-operate with spying or espionage, refuting claims that it may have links to the Chinese government.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Don't worry, we're not spies: that's the message Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is pushing out in a bid to allay U.S. fears that the firm may have been involved in spying or illegal activity for the firm's domestic government.


The firm has released a 24-page report, written by former U.K. government chief information officer turned Huawei's global security officer John Suffolk, which states its efforts to protect the network security of its worldwide customers was one of company's "fundamental interests".

Despite the U.S.' and China's deep economic ties and mostly-friendly diplomatic relations, the U.S. remains a thorn in China's side regarding cyber-security and electronic espionage.

Earlier this 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.

The Australian government also recently banned Huawei from bidding on country's National Broadband Network contracts citing similar reasons. 

Huawei, which employs 140,000 people with around 72 percent of its staff employed locally to the countries in which it operates, serves 45 out of the 50 top telecommunications operators and mobile networks.

With so much personal, sensitive and government-related data flowing through its technology, it's no wonder that some are worried that it has links to the Chinese government.

Google famously accused the Chinese government of hacking its networks in 2010 which saw the search giant pull out of the country altogether. It's one of many reports that China has attempted -- and succeeded -- in attacking foreign networks.

A lot of the report was self-serving "look how good we are" rhetoric but it did attempt to allay fears that the firm was somehow under the thumb of the Chinese government -- or any other state-controlling party for that matter. 

To wit:

We take cyber security seriously and have invested substantial resources into our efforts to promote and improve the ability of our company, our peers and others to provide the best-possible security assurance and ensure a safer and more secure cyber world for all. 

The report calls for a worldwide effort to break down the barriers faced by differing legal and technical security standards -- falling short of actually suggesting any --- but noted that current laws are outdated and fail to address core threats.

[F]or our survival, we have never damaged any nation or had the intent to steal any national intelligence, enterprise secrets or breach personal privacy and we will never support or tolerate such activities, nor will we support any entity from any country who may wish us to undertake an activity that would be deemed illegal in any country.

In this context, with the eyes of the world always upon us, with us positively encouraging audits and inspections of our capabilities, those that wish a vendor to undertake such an activity is more likely to select a company that is under less scrutiny. 

A Huawei spokesperson speaking to Reuters said the report was not intended as a way into the back pocket of disgruntled U.S. and Australian legislators, but that it nonetheless "does apply" to those situations.

"We deny that" it had been asked by the Chinese government to spy on firms or governments abroad, the spokesperson added. Let's just hope Huawei doesn't get caught with its hand in the fortune cookie jar.

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