U.S. National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien and other U.S. national security officials have warned that Chinese technology company Huawei has secretive access to sensitive and personal information stored in U.S. telecoms networks.
Telecom equipment manufacturers are required in many cases to create “back doors” that law enforcement authorities can use for lawful purposes, according to the Wall Street Journal. While those manufacturers are required to also close themselves out from those technology “back doors,” U.S. officials have alleged the Chinese company has secretly retained its access.
“We have evidence that Huawei has the capability secretly to access sensitive and personal information in systems it maintains and sells around the world,” O’Brien said.
“Huawei does not disclose this covert access to its local customers, or the host nation national-security agencies,” another senior U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. officials did not confirm specific instances of Huawei exploiting the alleged technology access, but did say they have suspected Huawei of holding that capability since 2009 when the company helped form much of the early fourth-generation (4G) cellular equipment.
The revelations come amid ongoing efforts throughout the Trump administration to exclude Huawei from involvement in developing 5G networks. The U.K. recently went forward with using Huawei equipment for less sensitive parts of its 5G network.
U.K. officials said they reviewed the latest warnings about Huawei and assessed that they were already aware of the allegations and factored that information into their analysis of how to prevent security threats.
In a Wednesday statement, Huawei denied the new allegations.
“US allegations of Huawei using lawful interception are nothing but a smokescreen – they don’t adhere to any form of accepted logic in the cyber security domain,” the company’s statement said. “Huawei has never and will never covertly access telecom networks, nor do we have the capability to do so.”
Huawei, in turn, criticized the U.S. for its own technology surveillance practices. The company referenced NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s claims that the U.S. has accessed telecoms networks worldwide “spying on other countries for quite some time.”
“Huawei is only an equipment supplier. In this role, accessing customer networks without their authorization and visibility would be impossible,” the company said. “We do not have the ability to bypass carriers, access control, and take data from their networks without being detected by all normal firewalls or security systems.”