Huawei has issued its retort to US accusations that it has access to telco networks, suggesting the US Government should be more mature than resorting to PR and propaganda campaigns.
“US allegations of Huawei using lawful interception are nothing but a smokescreen – they don’t adhere to any form of accepted logic in the cyber security domain,” the statement reads. “Huawei has never and will never covertly access telecom networks, nor do we have the capability to do so.”
Earlier this week, US officials briefed journalists at the Wall Street Journal regarding a technical loophole which granted Huawei access to telco networks around the work. Intended for law enforcement agencies, these backdoors offered opportunity for ‘Lawful Intercept’ activities when validated by the courts, though Huawei allegedly had access to these backdoors.
While it is a claim which certainly would have shocked a few people around the world, the story itself was a little bit suspect…
Firstly, if this is evidence of a smoking gun to prove espionage, why weren’t US officials showing this to the Governments of allied nations. Secondly, the US officials didn’t actually state that Huawei had done anything wrong. Third, it seemed unusual that only Huawei has access to these backdoors. And finally, if this is a situation which has been present since 2009, why are we only finding out about it now?
It would be foolish to completely disregard claims of espionage from the Chinese Government, but these statements from the US Government to the WSJ look more like a propaganda campaign, an offensive move to turn the tide of public opinion. If there was evidence, as the US officials suggest, surely it would be presented to other regulators and governments rather than a news outlet.
In its response to the allegations, Huawei has hit back suggesting the claims are nothing more than a rouse, the WSJ should have more credibility than to blindly follow such statements, its products are built to standards which make provisions for lawful intercept, and that it is an equipment manufacturer to the telcos.
The last point is an interesting one. Huawei manufacturers equipment which it sells to telcos, who then operate it behind security firewalls and systems. There would have to be some very sophisticated and nefarious software skills to embed such treacherous backdoors, and considering the damning reports the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) gave it in recent months, it seems like a long shot. Not impossible, but perhaps improbable.
At some point the telcos are going to have to put their hands up and say they aren’t that incompetent. Security is one of the most important roles in a telco nowadays, and to suggest Huawei has managed to dupe the telcos for all these years without a single sniff of suspicion, or at least someone accidentally bumping into a backdoor, is also quite unlikely.
If a network is breached or has played a role in international espionage, the telco which owns it has as much to lose as Huawei; how many subscribers or enterprise customers would it have left if this was the case? How many lawsuits would they open themselves up to if all these allegations could be proven true? Eventually, the telcos are going to have to say they aren’t idiots and know what they are doing to mitigate risk and uphold the security principles they preach.