U.S. officials said they had concrete evidence that Huawei has backdoor access capability to mobile phone networks. The authorities claimed the Chinese company could exploit the same equipment network operators were required to install for use by law enforcement agencies. Washington has accused Huawei of being in cooperation with the Chinese government, making it possible for the company to comply with the communist government’s requests to provide network access for surveillance purposes. Consequently, the company has asked the U.S. government to produce concrete evidence of its allegations. However, in the latest Wall Street Journal report, U.S. claims to have shared evidence with UK and Germany of the Chinese equipment manufacturer ability to carry out backdoor access to telecom equipment using the “lawful intercept gateway.”
Proof of backdoor access to telecommunication equipment
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that Huawei maintained the capability to secretly access sensitive and personal information in systems the company maintains and sells around the world. The officials said that they had observed Huawei’s backdoor access capability from the company’s initial 4G networking equipment since 2009. They noted that equipment manufacturers are legally required to provide backdoor access to communication equipment to law enforcement agencies. However, the law prohibits the manufacturers from accessing those backdoors without the telecom’s authority. Despite this, the officials say that Huawei built equipment that secretly preserves the right to access the networks without the approval of the operators. In addition, the officials say Huawei did not disclose the information to the telecom operators, law enforcement, or the host country. Although they could not confirm how similar it was to the lawful intercept gateway, the officials said that Huawei’s equipment had to be connected for surveillance to take place.
The United States has refused to publicize any evidence regarding the allegations but said it had shared the information with the UK and Germany. The U.S. official speaking to the journal did not confirm that security agencies have witnessed Huawei exploiting the backdoor access capabilities.
It is impossible to verify or dispute the evidence that the United States provided to its European allies because the information remains classified as top national secret.
Consequences of Huawei’s spying allegations
Regardless of the validity of the claims, major telecommunication companies have opted to evade Huawei. This is to avoid encountering any problems in future should the Western governments decide to blacklist the company from their 5g networks completely. However, Huawei has been courting smaller companies by offering them lower prices for the networking equipment. If the Western governments restrict Huawei, the smaller companies will bear the heaviest brunt of Huawei’s ban. Additionally, the allegations have weakened Huawei as the dominant company in the provision of 5g network equipment.
Huawei rebuttal to backdoor access allegations
Amid the latest allegations by the United States, Huawei has vehemently denied any involvement in the spying activities. The company dared the United States to provide any concrete evidence of the company covertly accessing telecom networks without the operators’ approval. John Suffolk, Huawei’s Senior Vice President and the Global Cyber Security and Privacy Officer, said that his company did not have access to the communication equipment as the United States claimed. He added that the company was not aware of any information being collected or when the activity was allegedly taking place. Suffolk said that the equipment Huawei provided was just a small part of the network infrastructure which was blind to the events taking place within the network. The GSPO also disputed the allegations that Huawei had taken part in the manufacture of the surveillance equipment used by the law enforcement agencies. He said that the faith Huawei’s customers had shown the company in the past 30 years was proof that the customers did not believe in any of the allegations.