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Report: Huawei Workers Collaborated With Chinese Military

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Huawei will now have even more trouble denying its connections to China's military. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that several of the company's workers have collaborated on research projects with "members of various organs of" the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Those employees were said to be working in unofficial capacities, but this is just another mark against Huawei's claims of total independence.

The possibility that Huawei works closely with China's military, intelligence agencies and other government organizations has led to scrutiny from countries around the world. Regulators in many countries have banned (or are thinking about banning) the company's networking equipment from 5G networks because they fear the Chinese government would use those networks to conduct mass surveillance.

Those fears led the U.S. government to bar federal agencies from purchasing Huawei equipment via the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019. The U.S. Department of Commerce also cited national security concerns when it added Huawei to the Entity List in May, although ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China have made it seem like there were other motivations behind the ban as well.

Huawei's denied these accusations, saying "Huawei is not aware of its employees publishing research papers in their individual capacity" and that it doesn't have a relationship with the PLA. But that was cast in doubt because the study's authors "identified themselves as Huawei employees," and "the company name was prominently listed at the top of the papers," according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg said the Huawei researchers and the PLA worked on "at least 10 research endeavors spanning artificial intelligence to radio communications." The report was careful to note that its findings don't indicate a direct relationship between Huawei and the Chinese military. They do make it clear that Huawei does have ties with the PLA, though, which could raise suspicions based on other reports.

That's not a good look for a company that's currently trying to maintain its relationship with U.S. suppliers despite being blacklisted by their federal government. Combine that with the CIA reportedly finding connections between Huawei and Chinese intelligence agencies, and it seems like Huawei's attempts to fight the various U.S. bans in court probably may not go the way the company hopes. 

  • King_V
    Well, this is certainly going to make it awkward/uncomfortable for those companies who are still selling because they found a loophole in the rules, as noted in this?rel=ugc]https://www.tomshardware.com/news/huawei-us-ban-intel-micron-china,39740.html']this article from yesterday.
    Reply
  • sosofm
    Why they don't ban everybody , when you install a crap app from playstore ,need permision to your contacts, media , location and almost all your phone , its normal ? NO !!! Google is the biggest spy on Earth , Microsoft and all the big software companies , why this is such a big thing ???? Im not chinese and i use a phone made by Huawei , Honor 10 and i don't care about what NSA,FBI ,CIA and other crapy american agency ( who spy everybody) are saying.
    Reply
  • King_V
    sosofm said:
    Why they don't ban everybody , when you install a crap app from playstore ,need permision to your contacts, media , location and almost all your phone , its normal ? NO !!! Google is the biggest spy on Earth , Microsoft and all the big software companies , why this is such a big thing ???? Im not chinese and i use a phone made by Huawei , Honor 10 and i don't care about what NSA,FBI ,CIA and other crapy american agency ( who spy everybody) are saying.

    So, are you basically saying that the US government and US corporations doing all the spying, and you think that the US government agencies are lying about Huawei, and that this new report is also a lie?

    Where's your evidence of this?

    You appear to be randomly conflating app permissions, and corporate data mining, with government spying and government-sponsored backdoors in hardware and software, as if they are all one and the same.
    Reply
  • k1664
    To be honest I can't think of a large government I do trust, but just because the employees collaborated with the government does not mean it was a Huawei initiative. It does fit the narrative though so best to push it heavily, bit like the Voda backdoors Bloomberg blew out of proportion.

    If I moonlighted as a taxi driver does that mean my company works with TfL?

    I'd still take a bet with anyone that once Trump sorts all the trade mess out Huawei will suddenly not be the boogeyman, same as ZTE were hammered then "saved" by Trump too.

    Just thinking out loud really, happy Friday all!
    Reply
  • bit_user
    k1664 said:
    I'd still take a bet with anyone that once Trump sorts all the trade mess out Huawei will suddenly not be the boogeyman, same as ZTE were hammered then "saved" by Trump too.
    The issue with ZTE is that they were banned as a punishment, where as the ban on US purchases of Huawei equipment (which is still in effect and not where the loophole was found) is because Huawei is seen as an ongoing security threat.

    The retrospective nature of the ZTE issue (which, IIRC was due to sanctions-busting) made it a lot easier to adjust the nature of their punishment. They were still punished, but in a way that hurt the rank-and-file employees much less.

    I'm not saying it definitely won't happen, because nobody knows what Trump considers negotiable. However, if Huawei truly is considered a security threat, then the US shouldn't let it in without some serious form of transparency. For instance, maybe they could agree to having all the firmware and software for its devices kept in escrow by a trusted 3rd party, and available for on-premises source-level review by researchers, upon disclosure to Huawei about who is looking at it and when. I actually think most critical infrastructure should be subject to such measures, no matter who it's from. Even if you trust a vendor, you can't be certain a backdoor wasn't planted either by a hacker or a rogue insider.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Anyway, my take is that certainly this article is alarmist and click-baitish. Bloomberg's isn't quite as bad, being more detailed, nuanced, and getting official comment from Huawei. The headlines are certainly misleading about the nature and extent of the problem that they've exposed. Maybe it goes deeper, but Bloomberg utterly failed to provide any such evidence.

    However, what this piece misses and Bloomberg's only touches upon, in the very last paragraph (and only in the form of a quote from one of their Chinese sources), is that this sort of thing happens in the US, all the time. There's nothing particularly remarkable about an employee of a US company collaborating with other researchers, who might be funded by a DoD or a DARPA grant. What I don't know is whether those employees are typically required to inform their employer of outside research (I assume so, even if it doesn't always happen).
    Reply
  • k1664
    bit_user said:
    Anyway, my take is that certainly this article is alarmist and click-baitish. Bloomberg's isn't quite as bad, being more detailed, nuanced, and getting official comment from Huawei. The headlines are certainly misleading about the nature and extent of the problem that they've exposed. Maybe it goes deeper, but Bloomberg utterly failed to provide any such evidence.

    However, what this piece misses and Bloomberg's only touches upon, in the very last paragraph (and only in the form of a quote from one of their Chinese sources), is that this sort of thing happens in the US, all the time. There's nothing particularly remarkable about an employee of a US company collaborating with other researchers, who might be funded by a DoD or a DARPA grant. What I don't know is whether those employees are typically required to inform their employer of outside research (I assume so, even if it doesn't always happen).

    Agreed totally about it be click bait and Bloomberg failing to offer evidence seems common, but much is the way with lots of outlets nowadays.

    Trump has lifted the sales part of his ban so they can now buy parts again, but at the moment Huawei are still on the list, banned from selling to the USA. Some sort of oversight or partnership to monitor their hardware and they'll be back in, a bit like the UK setup probably.

    It's like they all get a bit miffed when one group out-spies another ;) or has the ability to anyway.

    Happy Monday all
    Reply
  • bit_user
    k1664 said:
    It's like they all get a bit miffed when one group out-spies another ;) or has the ability to anyway.
    There are multiple issues with a foreign IT supplier of critical infrastructure. Spying is only one of them. Another biggie would be the ability to break things at will.

    As for the spying part - you just don't knowingly let someone potentially spy on an arbitrarily large amount of your communications. That's why the Europeans were so annoyed, when it came out that the NSA was spying on them. Only, at that time, they probably dealt with the matter in a much more diplomatic fashion.
    Reply
  • k1664
    bit_user said:
    Spying is only one of them. Another biggie would be the ability to break things at will.
    Very true, but I do believe most people in control of these infrastructures can manage to break things themselves without trying.

    bit_user said:
    you just don't knowingly let someone potentially spy on an arbitrarily large amount of your communications.
    I mean that's the crux of it right there, by using foreign equipment, or equipment you don't know every inch of, hardware and software, then there is always the potential for someone to gain access, which as you say has been proven over and over.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    k1664 said:
    Very true, but I do believe most people in control of these infrastructures can manage to break things themselves without trying.
    Oh, okay. So, because of human fallibility on the part of well-intentioned operators, you're cool with handing the keys over to the bad guys. Good to know.
    Reply