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FBI, CIA, and NSA chiefs advise against using HUAWEI and ZTE phones (Updated)

Update: ZTE USA has provided a statement on the matter.

Published onFebruary 14, 2018

  • Heads of the FBI, CIA and NSA have warned against using smartphones from Chinese manufacturers like HUAWEI and ZTE.
  • The comments were made during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday.
  • The intelligence chiefs said they were “deeply concerned” about the risks posed by these devices, though HUAWEI denies any wrongdoing.

Six US intelligence chiefs, including those from the FBI, CIA and NSA, have advised against using HUAWEI and ZTE phones. The news arrives via CNBC, which says the heads told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that they wouldn’t recommend the products to private citizens.

HUAWEI responds to accusation that it solicited fake reviews of Mate 10 Pro

“[We are] 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,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Intelligence chiefs also reportedly praised the “measured resistance” of American telecom companies against Chinese smartphone vendors.

“This is a challenge I think that is only going to increase, not lessen over time for us,” said NSA director Adm. Michael Rogers. “You need to look long and hard at companies like this.”

Richard Yu, CEO of HUAWEI’s consumer products division

Meanwhile, US lawmakers also recently proposed a bill that would ban the use of HUAWEI and ZTE telecoms equipment in the US.

The news follows reports that US intelligence recently reiterated concerns over HUAWEI’s ties to the Chinese government. AT&T and Verizon are both believed to have pulled out of deals with HUAWEI over the allegations; Richard Yu, CEO of HUAWEI’s consumer products division, called the cancellation of the AT&T partnership a “big loss for consumers.”

Subsequently, a HUAWEI spokesman provided CNBC with the following statement on the matter:

HUAWEI is aware of a range of US government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting HUAWEI’s business in the U.S. market. HUAWEI is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT [information and communications technology] vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities.

Update (02/15): A ZTE USA spokesperson sent us the following statement in response to the report.

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.

We’ve previously taken a deep dive into what’s really going on behind these moves—check it out at the previous link.