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US probing Chinese networking firms over national security risk

China's telecommunications companies under investigation by U.S. intelligence unit for potential threat posed to the country's security and critical infrastructure.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

The U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has launched an investigation to assess potential threats to national security posed by the presence of China's networking vendors and their expasion plans in the country.

In a statement released Thursday, the HPSCI said it would look into risks that might emerge from the expansion of Chinese networking vendors, including Huawei Technologies and ZTE, into the country's telecommunications infrastructure.

According to HPSCI, which oversees the country's intelligence-gathering agencies, a preliminary review suggested that the "threat to the supply chain constitutes a rising national security concern of the highest priority". The investigation aims to determine if the Chinese vendors can act as Trojan horses for their government to facilitate greater foreign espionage and economic espionage, the U.S. government agency said.

"The fact that our critical infrastructure could be used against us is of serious concern," said HSPI chairperson, Mike Rogers. "We are looking at the overall infrastructure threat and Huawei happens to be the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but there are other companies that will be included in the investigation as well."

Ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger added: "We already know the Chinese are aggressively hacking into our nation's networks, threatening our critical infrastructure, and stealing secrets worth millions of dollars in intellectual property from American companies.

"The purpose of this investigation is to determine to what extent Chinese communications companies are exploiting the global supply chain, and how we can mitigate this threat to our national and economic security."

In a statement to ZDNet Asia, Bill Plummer, vice president of External Affairs at Huawei U.S. said: "Network security concerns are not about Huawei.  The integrity of our solutions has been proven worldwide, having been deployed by 45 of the world's top 50 operators across the globe without security incident

"Huawei is committed to openness and transparency.  We acknowledge that network security concerns are very real and we welcome an open and fair investigation, whether by congressional committee or otherwise, focused on concerns raised by the interdependent global supply chain used by virtually every telecommunications equipment manufacturer providing solutions in the U.S. and elsewhere," said Plummer.

"Ensuring network integrity is critically important to Huawei and its industry peers and we look forward to working with government and industry stakeholders towards defining universal and true solutions to addressing network security," he added.

This is not the first time the U.S. has accused Chinese organizations of espionage. Late October, a Chinese official refuted a U.S. Commission's claim that China was involved in hacking attacks on U.S. satellites.

The Asian giant had been linked to several high-profile security breaches including attacks against Google's Gmail users as well as three U.S. defense contractors.

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