Are Security Fears About Huawei Overdone?

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Some security experts believe U.S. claims about the potential danger Chinese telecom Huawei poses to 5G networks are overblown. Huawei, meanwhile, has gone on the offensive to repair its image. The security issue relates to the U.S. extradition case against Huawei’s CFO. Canada is allowing the case to proceed.  

Huawei took out a full-page ad in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal that read: “Don’t believe everything you hear. Come and see us.” The ad, an “open letter” from Catherine Chen, a senior vice president and director of Huawei’s board, asks U.S. journalists to visit the company’s campuses, noting the U.S. government has accused the company of espionage, fraud and theft in the past year, and “has developed some misunderstandings about us,” reported CNBC.

Some U.S. security officials have long said Huawei has built “backdoors” into network technology it sells to other countries, to enable it to spy for the Chinese government. Huawei refutes this claim.

The U.S. has been trying to persuade allies to ban Huawei gear from their communications networks due to security concerns. Some of Huawei’s ads have been aimed at winning over customers in countries like New Zealand that, aligned with the U.S., have banned Huawei’s equipment, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, security experts say the U.S. is likely exaggerating the threat, saying the U.S. is short on proof and suggesting the Chinese need no special tech to infiltrate global communications networks that already have poor security, reports The State. “If the Chinese want to disrupt global networks, “they will do so regardless of the type of equipment you are using,” said Jan-Peter Kleinhans, a researcher at the Berlin think tank Neue Verantwortung Stiftung.

Priscilla Moriuchi, who retired from the National Security Agency in 2017, does not believe the Huawei threat is overblown. But she called the odds of the telecom installing backdoors on behalf of Chinese intelligence, “almost zero because of the chance that it would be discovered.” When backdoors are found, said Moriuchi, now an analyst at the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, it can be very difficult to determine who is behind them.

March 4, 2019

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