US Intelligence officials have determined that phones and services provided by Huawei, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer in China, and Chinese telecom ZTE pose a security risk to Americans, and that consumers should avoid both companies altogether. The determination was made known by half a dozen US intelligence chiefs, each of which told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that Americans should steer clear of both companies.
Among the six top intelligence chiefs were the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and National Security Agency (NSA), along with the director of national intelligence. At first, they all indicated a lack of trust with Huawei and ZTE. Later on in the hearing, however, the intelligence officials doubled down on their collective concerns and, when prompted, said they would not recommend that Americans use products or services from either company.
"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," FBI Director Chris Wray testified, according to CNBC.
Wray went on to say that using products and services from Huawei and ZTE "provides the capacity to exert pressure over our telecommunications infrastructure," and that it paves the way for both companies to "maliciously modify or steal information." He also said it "provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage."
Huawei has been trying to gain a foothold in the US marketplace, and at one point was set to distribute smartphones through AT&T before the wireless carrier backed out. Efforts remain, however, and Huawei responded the concerns voiced by US intelligence officials, basically saying they are overblown.
"Huawei is aware of a range of US government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the US market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities," Huawei said.
This is not the first time that US officials have voiced concerns about Huawei and ZTE. Back in 2012, the House Intelligence Committee stated in a report that both outfits pose a security risk to the US and shouldn't be allowed to engage in any mergers or acquisitions within the country.