Officials from the FBI, CIA, NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency issued a warning on Tuesday that smartphones made in China represent a potential security threat for American customers.
The warning, which came during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats, has massive implications for Apple competitor Huawei and telecom company ZTE.
Both companies in 2012 were banned from selling phones in the US after the House Intelligence Committee cited Huawei and ZTE as potential security risks due to their close ties with the Chinese government. In 2013, Congress approved a law preventing some government agencies from buying products from Huawei or ZTE without approval.
Last week, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton (R) introduced a bill that would prevent the feds from contracting with companies that use ZTE or Huawei products. A similar bill was introduced in the House last month.
“The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically Chinese telecoms like Huawei and ZTE Corp that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC).
The main fear here is that Chinese smartphone manufacturers will be forced to comply if the Chinese government decides to request information using their networks. China is already using Tencent and Alibaba’s massive databases to spy on its citizens and censor the Internet.
“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,” said FBI Director Chris Wray. “It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”
Wray added that we must establish some sort of “strategic perspective on China’s efforts to use acquisitions and other types of business ventures.”
In its response, Huawei accused the US government of inhibiting its business and pointed out that it is trusted in 170 countries worldwide. “We pose no greater cybersecurity risk than other vendors,” said Huawei.
Speaking during the International Consumer Electronics Show last month, Huawei’s Customer Products Division CEO Richard Yu said, “We’ve won the trust of Chinese carries. We’ve also won spots on all of the European carries.”
Yu’s remarks follow the sudden collapse of a deal between Huawei and AT&T, which had been planning to sell Huawei phones in the US. AT&T’s decision to back out is “reportedly due to pressure from US lawmakers,” reports The New York Post.
ZTE also refuted the intelligence directors’ warning, pointing out that its phones and other devices include American-made parts. “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.”
Author’s Note: Many people do not realize it, but China is a much greater threat than Russia. China is one of our largest trading partners, and could exert massive control over us with minimal effort.
On top of that is the Chinese government’s obsessive dedication to spying (both domestic and foreign) and stealing technology. We should not let them sell smartphones in the US.