Citing risks but no evidence, US intel chiefs warn against using Huawei, ZTE phones

There was speculation that US government concerns killed Huawei deals with AT&T and Verizon for the Mate 10 Pro. Now, statements from US intelligence chiefs to Congress confirm those rumors.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

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Huawei is in third place in global smartphone market share, with very little US influence, and after yesterday's briefing by the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence to the Senate Intelligence Committee, it is unlikely Huawei will be able to count on US consumers to help grow that market share.

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The US intelligence chiefs first referenced US government employees and state agencies in the briefing, but then they expanded concerns to private citizens and recommended we not use products from Huawei and ZTE. As a US military veteran and man who bleeds red, white, and blue, I'm willing to give up on such products -- provided there is actual evidence of nefarious activity. So far, none has surfaced.

FBI Director Chris Wray offered this non-answer as to why these agencies are making the recommendation:

We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks. That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.

It appears that these agencies believe Huawei and ZTE have the capacity to perform active spying, but there continues to be no evidence that either company currently is carrying out such actions. ZDNet's Jason Perlow recently made a clear argument that such paranoia may have major impacts on world trade.

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It was believed that Huawei would announce the Mate 10 Pro coming from AT&T at CES 2018, but instead, we ended up with an unlocked phone promoted by Wonder Woman. ZTE, on the other hand, has several phones currently sold by US carriers.

In response to the statements made by the US government, Huawei said it "poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." During the CES keynote, Huawei focused on security, privacy, and trust, confirming it is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries. In other words, Huawei denies it is planning to perform any nefarious activities in the US.

ZTE USA issued the following statement:

ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the US market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards. Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate US-made chipsets, US-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our US suppliers, US customers and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs.

ZTE smartphones use Qualcomm chipsets so it is curious that US government officials are lumping in ZTE with Huawei in their statements. Just because a phone is made by a Chinese company does not automatically mean it is spying on users.

Read also: Does the iPhone still matter? Huawei, not Apple, now drives the mobile conversation

If you are truly concerned about phones made in China, I put together this gallery of 10 smartphones not made in China for you to consider. As for myself, I will continue to use the Huawei Mate 10 Pro until there is evidence that shows I should be concerned.

10 best smartphones not made in China

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