UK, US Governments Warn Against Buying ZTE Hardware

The U.S. government recently put pressure on telecommunications companies to stop buying Huawei networking equipment and consumer electronics products. ZTE, another Chinese company, now seems to be next in the line of fire of both the UK and U.S. governments.

UK Warns ISPs Against Using ZTE Hardware

Unlike Huawei, ZTE is a state-owned company, which seems to raise more questions even for the UK government, which hasn’t banned Huawei hardware yet. The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) believes that the potential national security risks are too significant to be ignored, and that it would be better if UK telcos stopped buying ZTE hardware to avoid future security problems that wouldn’t be easily mitigated.

Dr Ian Levy, Technical Director of the NCSC said:

It is entirely appropriate and part of NCSC’s duty to highlight potential risks to the UK’s national security and provide advice based on our technical expertise.NCSC assess that the national security risks arising from the use of ZTE equipment or services within the context of the existing UK telecommunications infrastructure cannot be mitigated.

ZTE Banned From Exporting American Technology

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has blocked ZTE from exporting technology from U.S. companies.

In March 2017, ZTE settled after the U.S. government discovered that it was shipping U.S. technology to sanctioned countries such as North Korea and Iran. ZTE agreed to pay $1.19 billion and to a suspended denial of export privileges for seven years, which could be activated if ZTE’s violations continued.

The Department of Commerce has now learned that ZTE made false statements to the U.S. government during the 2016 settlement negotiations as well as the 2017 probationary period.

Secretary Ross said:

ZTE misled the Department of Commerce. Instead of reprimanding ZTE staff and senior management, ZTE rewarded them. This egregious behavior cannot be ignored.

The order against ZTE also means American companies can no longer sell any type of technology to ZTE to minimize the chances that ZTE would once again export that technology elsewhere.

A Bill To Ban Huawei, ZTE Hardware Is Coming

Texas Representative Mike Conaway introduced a bill this January to ban Huawei and ZTE from selling hardware to the federal government.

In a statement, Conaway said:

Chinese commercial technology is a vehicle for the Chinese government to spy on United States federal agencies, posing a severe national security threat.Allowing Huawei, ZTE, and other related entities access to U.S. government communications would be inviting Chinese surveillance into all aspects of our lives.

The American intelligence agencies have also warned against consumers buying Huawei and ZTE devices. U.S. versions of ZTE phones were found to have a backdoor in 2012.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • dudmont
    Interesting post, thanks.
  • 10tacle
    I am not happy that so many of our consumer choices of technology are being assembled in China (TVs, PC components, smart phones, microwaves, etc.). I trust their integrity about as far as I can throw a mule, and their increased territorial aggression in the South Pacific Rim is even more disturbing. And the increasing trend of "smart home" technology is equally disturbing. You can bet that hardware is made in China too. I'm not ready to wear a tin foil hat yet, but I'm getting there rapidly.
  • dudmont
    I don't trust my own government(US, didn't before Obama, didn't under Obama, don't under Trump), much less China's. Your sentiments are much like mine. I don't have a facebook account, and my only social media presence at all is LinkedIn(strictly work purposes). I'm no luddite, but I try to understand the implications of Surveillance Capitalism and worse, big government surveillance. There's a reason I still use a lan connection(not that it helps much).
    China is the US'(and Western Civilization for that matter) biggest geopolitical threat/problem, anyone who doesn't see that has serious myopia.
  • Nintendork
    China already has whatever it wants and can build whatever they want, they can nuke europe if they want too.

    Europe and US feed the monstro, just accept it.
  • Zaporro
    Murica at it again, war for oil and stirring up middle east is not enough for them, now they wage economical war, banning foregin companies based on false accusations and accusing them for exaclty same thing US gov does.