Is Huawei a security threat? Seven experts weigh in

The government of the United States is taking harsh measures against Huawei. Lawmakers and intelligence officials have claimed that China's government could exploit the telecommunications giant for espionage, posing a potentially serious national security risk, especially when the US UU Build your next generation 5G network. To address that threat, officials say, they have blocked the government's use of the company's equipment, while the Justice Department has also accused Huawei's chief financial officer of violating sanctions against Iran and the company itself by stealing trade secrets.

Huawei's response has been simple: it is not a threat to security. The most important thing is that the company's leaders have said that EE. UU It has not presented evidence that it functions inappropriately with the Chinese government or that it will do so in the future. In addition, they say, there are ways to mitigate risk, which have worked successfully in other countries. The president of Huawei has even gone so far as to call the US government a hypocrite, criticizing China, while the National Security Agency spies around the world. The company has also denied any criminal offense.

Earlier this month, Huawei increased the stakes again. In a lawsuit, the company asked a court to determine that the United States government's ban on its products is unconstitutional. Huawei's rotating president said that after failing to convince US lawmakers that their products were safe, they "had no other choice," but to make a legal challenge.

Regardless of how the suit is shaken, it will hardly be the last shot in the ongoing battle. Is the right of the United States to attack Chinese equipment manufacturers such as Huawei, or is the company, as claimed, unjustly slandered? The Verge brought together experts, from prominent observers from China to Senator Marco Rubio, to give their opinion.

The answers have been edited lightly because of their length and consistency.

Robert Williams, executive director, Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School

If one sees 5G telecommunication networks as critical infrastructure, then the lack of evidence that a company has manipulated its hardware prior to instances of a foreign government is not willing to allow that company's equipment in 5G networks. The question is whether the risks of espionage or sabotage are unacceptably high, which depends in part on whether the company can credibly claim that it is independent of the foreign government in question. This may help explain why Western governments broadly agree that Huawei poses security risks, even to the extent that they can differ on how to manage or mitigate those risks.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Huawei is a Chinese telecommunications company run by the state with a singular objective: to undermine foreign competition by stealing trade secrets and intellectual property, and through artificially low prices backed by the Chinese government . The Chinese communist government represents the biggest long-term threat to the national and economic security of the United States, and the United States must be vigilant to prevent Chinese state-run telecommunications companies, such as Huawei and ZTE, from undermining and endangering the 5G networks of the United States. Future cutting-edge industries, such as driverless vehicles and the Internet of things, will depend on this critical technology and any action that threatens our 21st century industries to develop and deploy 5G, undoubtedly undermines our national and economic security.

Soy We are not sure we can trust a Huawei audit any more than we can trust that the Chinese government will provide intelligence that proves that intellectual property is not stolen from US companies. No audit can reveal a future order from the Chinese government to provide them with data. I know. UU They must develop a long-term governance strategy to protect against the theft of state-sponsored technology and the risks to critical supply chains. We must also recognize that the continuing threat posed by the Chinese government's assault on the intellectual property of the United States. UU., US companies. UU And our governmental networks and information has the full support of the Chinese Communist Party.

Qing Wang, professor of marketing and innovation, University of Warwick

Is Huawei a threat to security? There is no solid evidence to support this notion, and some of the reasons given for this notion are weak. For example, the Huawei presidents fund. The founder of Huawei, Mr. Ren Zhengfei, once served in the People's Liberation Army. As we know, serving in the army was a way out of poverty for people in the countryside, which is where Mr. Ren comes from. His time in the army was brief and he was not in any important position.

Regarding the company's background, unlike state-owned companies like China Mobile and China Railway Corporation, Huawei is a private company, such as Alibaba, Tencent and Haier. that emerged from the economic reform of China in the eighties. These companies would never have existed, much less grown, if there were no economic reform and they would move from a planned economy to a market economy. State-owned companies operate differently than private companies. The CEOs of state-owned companies are government officials and are directly appointed by the government; They are the products of the old communist legacy. On the other hand, the CEOs of private companies are the founders themselves or their descendants who succeed in family businesses. These companies have developed their technological capabilities and business acumen through market mechanisms both inside and outside of China, and adopted the same business practices and competed with their Western counterparts without the government's preferential treatment. At the most, the resources and support of the government are directed to the state companies because they are no longer suitable for the new market economy.

For someone like me who has studied emerging market companies for decades, Huawei is the case of a large manufacturing company's textbook; unfortunately, he has been the victim of the anti-globalization policy and the feeling of the United States and the ongoing trade war with China. Huawei has been accused of having close or even dubious relations with the Chinese government, therefore, a security threat to the western world. It is true that now that these companies have become competitive in the global market, creating jobs and tax revenues for the government, the government is anxious to see that its success can continue. In any case, Huawei and the government are concerned that reputation and technological leadership continue instead of being ruined by scandals such as espionage.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)

There is ample evidence suggesting that no major Chinese company is independent of the government and the Communist Party of China, and Huawei, which the Chinese government and army promote as "national champion", It is not an exception. Allowing the inclusion of Huawei in our 5G infrastructure could seriously jeopardize our national security and put critical supply chains at risk. It could also undermine the competitiveness of the EE. UU At a time when China is already trying to overtake the US UU At the technological and economic level through the use of technology transfers led by the state and supported by the state.

It's not about finding "back doors" in Huawei's current products. – That's a fool's chore. Software revisions of Huawei's existing products are not sufficient to prevent the possibility of a supplier presenting a malicious update that allows surveillance in the future. Any supposedly safe Chinese product is a firmware update that ceases to be an unsafe Chinese product.

Nicholas Weaver, staff investigator, University of California, Berkeley

Sabotage can really be very subtle. There are complete contests around how to make sabotage almost imperceptible, such as the "repentant C contest." It's even more in the hardware. For example, he could sabotage the cryptographic random number generator so that if he knew the secret he could predict it, but if not, he could not.

This is worse in telecommunications systems, since those systems are specifically designed to be interconnected, so a bit of sabotage in the specific routines of enabling wiretapping and it would be very, very difficult to detect. In addition, it also has manufacturing: just because the design is what it "certified" does not mean that what you buy is what it certified. Only one microscopic difference: the addition of a small sabotage chip, and now you lose all your guarantees.

Francis Dinha, CEO of OpenVPN

United States is right to treat Huawei as a security threat, but I do not. I believe that any prohibition of any equipment is the correct solution. No matter what equipment we use for 5G, there will be security risks. With an amount of data so exponentially so high, there will be an inherently higher risk. But taking a competitor out of the market could lead other companies to become complacent, which would mean that the innovation and development of the US. UU They could be reduced, which presents an even more serious safety risk in general.

Instead of relying on our network to be sure, we should seriously consider building a secure virtual network superimposed on the 5G infrastructure that can provide end-to-end security, controlled and managed by 5G network operators. We need guidelines to improve network security, and we must push for the software for this equipment to be open source. Open source means transparency and security, which is exactly what we need when we move to 5 G.

Undoubtedly, Huawei is a risk, but there are other ways besides a ban to mitigate that risk. No matter who is manufacturing our 5G equipment, we must be proactive with cyber security.

William Snyder, professor of law, Syracuse University

Huawei is a threat to the national security of the United States. UU., But that's not the most important thing. Vulnerabilities in the network hardware and software supply chain are, have been and will continue to be a threat to the national security of the United States and many other countries, including China. It is still very difficult to audit that a chip with millions of embedded transistors or software with millions of lines of code does only what consumers know and consent to do. Even if Huawei is not committing the kind of crimes for which he was accused by a United States grand jury, any company that provides such a large percentage of the market for telecommunication network components and has such links with the People's Liberation Army it's a threat. Huawei's need to operate under Chinese laws on cooperation with the Chinese military and intelligence agencies is worrisome.

Huawei's status as a threat is not unique. Not only other Chinese companies such as ZTE and China Mobile are integrated into the supply chain, but also those from other countries. The own Huawei buys components to the main companies of EE. UU., Qualcomm included. These companies are subject to US laws. UU Related to cooperation with US intelligence agencies Given the free market economy of the United States, rarely, if at all, will a US company be as closely tied to the government as Chinese companies. However, if you are a creator of security policies of a nation like India, with several times the population of EE. UU. Would not you worry about how many important servicemen have backdoors in their networks?

As long as conflict occurs At national and state level, while critical cybernetic networks are designed and manufactured internationally, we must all be very careful. This is a systemic problem. Currently, the size of Huawei and the links with the PLA make it the focus of concern. In the future, another threat to the supply chain will occupy a central place.

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