Huawei denies spying allegation made by ex-NSA head

by: Gary SimsJuly 20, 2013

Huawei boothHuawei is having a rough time at the moment, not because of smartphone sales numbers, but because it is being repeatedly accused of spying for the Chinese state government. Michael Hayden, a retired four star general and the former head of the CIA and the NSA, has publicly accused the networking company of passing sensitive information about national telecommunication infrastructures to the Chinese state.

This isn’t the first time that Huawei has been accused of having links with the Chinese government. In 2012, the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) published a very negative report about the company which concluded that “the risks associated with Huawei and ZTE’s provision of equipment to US critical infrastructure could undermine core US national-security interests.” At the time of the report release, Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said companies that had used Huawei equipment had made “numerous allegations” of odd behavior by Huawei equipment including routers supposedly sending large amounts of data to China during the night.

The problems stem from the fact that Huawei was founded by Ren Zhengfei, who is a former officer of the People’s Liberation Army. The perception is therefore that the company has close links to the Chinese State. Considering the high level of Chinese State sponsored cyber attacks against countries like the USA, these links are causing concern.

Earlier this week in the UK, a country which currently buys millions of dollars worth of Huawei equipment, a government report raised questions about the independence of staff employed at a test center which was setup to examine Huawei’s equipment for security vulnerabilities. It turns out that although staffed by security cleared UK personnel, the center is funded entirely by Huawei and remains under Huawei’s control.

In response to Hayden’s accusations, Scott Sykes, head of international media affairs for Huawei, told the BBC that the comments were “sad distractions from real-world concerns related to espionage – industrial and otherwise – that demand serious discussion globally”.


Although there haven’t been any specific allegations against Huawei’s range of Android phones, the possibility that their handsets have hidden back doors isn’t beyond the realm of belief. Last year it was revealed that a phone from ZTE (which is also on USA’s naughty list) contained a secret back door which granted root access to whoever knew the hard coded password. ZTE later admitted the existence of the back door but said it was a mistaken left in the firmware by an engineer.

If Huawei does come under attack for any security related issues with its Android handsets, one possible solution would be for the company to fully publish the source code for its devices, along with build instructions, so that the firmware can be independently built and verified. An alternative would be for the company to work closely with the Android Open Source Project to ensure that AOSP builds can be installed on all their phones.

What do you think, can Huawei be trusted?

  • Justme

    Wouldn’t have anything to do with that accuser having an executive role on the board at Motorola?
    It’s yet to be proven Huawei have been spying, whereas the NSA who were the accusers former employer……. well spying is an understatement on their behalf.
    Beware the wolf guarding the sheep!

    • More like the pot calling the kettle black.

      Let’s just admit it, every government in the world spies on their citizens.

  • CRiTiCaL_FLuX

    I wouldn’t put it beyond them, although it is interesting that the accuser is the former head of the NSA. I dont know if that makes this more credible or just a lame attempt to divert attention from PRISM. Doesn’t matter though since I’d never buy a Chinese phone anyway.

    • Seth Forbus

      ‘I’d never buy a chinese phone anyway” I wouldn’t ever buy an iphone either. :P

  • End in sight

    So my phone broke and I bought a cheap Tmo phone from Walmart to use for a month or so until they release the phone I want. When I went to put the Sim in, I realized it is made by Huawei.

    Now that I see this article, I gotta figure out a way to get these guys off my trail. But it is the Chinese government so they are like everywhere. D.a.m.n.

  • mrband

    YES, WE sCAN!

  • Magnetic1

    Publicly they exchange finger pointing.
    Privately they exhcange phone records.

    • Magnetic1

      What I mean is… it is legal for each other to look at our private phone records because it is their job to spy. But it is illegal for them to do it to their own people.

      • Magnetic1

        So the guy goes talking about how he just need this guy to cooperate.
        The other guy goes, don’t worry about it you just go through this guy who knows this guy and then you’ll find the guy who knows the guy… like bing it’s done. Phone records search database.