The heads of several U.S. law and spy agencies claim that smartphone buyers should avoid buying products from China’s Huawei, since the company poses a risk of data theft and surveillance of users, but also are a danger to national security as well.
“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 Christopher Wray explained, according to CNBC. “That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”
Also present during the hearing were five other agency heads, for organizations like the CIA and NSA.
Huawei is known to have close ties to the Chinese government. In theory allowing Huawei devices and infrastructure to spread in the U.S. could make it easier for the Communist Party to launch hacking attempts.
Huawei has denied that it poses a greater threat than other vendors.
The company has so far had trouble entering the U.S. market. A deal to sell phones through AT&T was broken off, and politicians have put pressure on the carrier to avoid collaborating with Huawei on 5G technology. Likewise, politicians have moved to prevent government purchases from Huawei or another Chinese firm, ZTE.
Some U.S. law and intelligence officials have called on domestic phone makers —including Apple —to permit backdoors in their software so data can be accessed at will with a warrant or other legal order. The NSA is known to collect metadata en masse, and has sometimes inserted its own backdoors into servers and routers.