The Times reported today that the Central Intelligence Agency has evidence that Huawei is at least partly funded by China’s National Security Commission, the People’s Liberation Army, and a yet-to-be-identified third member of the Chinese government's intelligence apparatus. Huawei denied the report, but this is just the latest in a long series of accusations regarding the company's ties with Chinese intelligence agencies.
Those accusations led the U.S. government to prevent federal agencies from purchasing equipment from Huawei and ZTE in August 2018. Reports indicated that the companies might also be banned from civilian networks, too, but so far nothing has come of those claims. That doesn't mean the U.S. has lightened up on Huawei--the company's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, has been charged with evading sanctions on Iran.
The U.S. government isn't alone in its wariness of Huawei, either, as countries throughout Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand, have at least considered banning the company's equipment from their wireless networks. MIT announced earlier this month that it would stop working with Huawei as part of a broader effort to limit the university's association with China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other countries facing international scrutiny.
Now it seems the U.S. government is urging other countries to adopt standards that would prevent Huawei (and presumably ZTE) from becoming a central part of 5G wireless networks. Reuters reported as such on April 15, and The Times reported that the CIA shared its intelligence linking Huawei with China's intelligence apparatus with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom as part of the Five Eyes alliance.
Huawei's response to these obstacles has varied. In the U.S., for example, it's contesting the ban on its equipment by saying it violates its Constitutional rights. The Chinese government has intervened on its behalf in Canada. Meanwhile, these problems led Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei to warn "mediocre employees" in January that they could be laid off because the company needs to "conduct some organisational streamlining."
A company representative told The Times that "Huawei does not comment on unsubstantiated allegations backed up by zero evidence from anonymous sources." But as countries around the world question the safety of using Huawei equipment in their wireless networks, the company might not have a choice but to respond. Zhengfei thought things were getting serious in January; let's see how he feels by December.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.