The world’s biggest surveillance superpowers don’t want Huawei cell tower and networking router equipment inside critical networks in their countries, amid rumors of spying for the Chinese military
Huawei, they say, could be spying for the Chinese military— and that presents a national security risk. Almost all the world’s powerful nations have stacked up against the Chinese telecom components company – now its Huawei vs. the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and almost all of Europe and Japan.
However, besides the fact that the company’s founder and the president is a former officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army and it remains heavily funded by the Chinese government, there’s no real direct evidence that Huawei is using its equipment to spy on network traffic inside the U.S. or any other country. However, to set fears at rest, the company cannot do anything but allow governments to assess its devices. This has been done and while some irregularities have been found, there is no conclusive evidence of their connection with Chinese espionage actors.
So that good enough for now. But what if these links take to espionage in the future? If there is an option, it is possible that telecom companies will now utilize Huawei’s cheap and reliable technology to populate all their networks, and moreover, it is necessary for the impending 5G expansion. If there is a hidden vulnerability, China could leverage it even years later, and it could be used by its hackers to steal economic secrets from businesses. Their inroads would be so deep by then, that no company will be able to control the damage or just rip out their routers and switches.
So the toss up is- telecom majors need the brand, but the governments of these countries cannot just let the suspicion go- they continue to treat them as critical national infrastructure and their compromise, a national security concern. So now, telecom companies have to choose- Is the known devil better than the unknown one?
So while government-led reports contain claims of bribery, corruption, and even copyright infringement, there was no proof that the company was spying. China’s stand, despite its authoritarian rule, is that it cannot legally compel a company to spy on its behalf. But Westerners are skeptical. The irony is that it’s the U.S. and the U.K. — and more recently Australia — that have laws in place that can, in fact, compel a company to turn over data, or force a company to install backdoors. So, justifiably, after the Edward Snowden disclosures that revealed the scope of U.S. surveillance, China retaliated by dropping U.S. technology from its networks and systems. That didn’t really affect the Chinese markets because it has its own booming tech industry, and doesn’t really need US equipment to exist. So the situation is that most western nations would rather trust U.S. technology even with its powerful surveillance laws. The rest of the world doesn’t really care.