The heads of six major US intelligence agencies have reportedly warned Americans not to use smartphones from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. According to a CNBC report, the heads of CIA, FBI and NSA expressed these concerns during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week. The group also included the director of national intelligence, who echoed the other three over the matter.
"We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," FBI Director Chris Wray was quoted as saying. "It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage," he added.
This is not the first time US intelligence agencies have warned their citizens over using Chinese phones. Since a 2012 investigation, in which Huawei was wholly uncooperative, US lawmakers have been warning about the potential dangers of using Huawei phones. Huawei, founded by a former engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army, has been labelled as “an arm of the Chinese government” by US politicians. The company was eventually banned from bidding for US government contracts in 2014. Now the state is causing problems for its push into consumer electronics.
Huawei responded to the concerns expressed by the US, saying it is a trusted company which doesn't pose any cybersecurity threat. The US government activities are aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the US market, the company says.
"Huawei is aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei’s business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities," the company said in a statement.
Huawei was all set to launch its new Mate 10 Pro flagship in the US through AT&T, but the carrier pulled out of the deal at the last minute, reportedly due to political pressure. Huawei’s CEO Richard Yu expressed the frustration during a speech at CES, describing the move as a “big loss” for the company, but a bigger loss for consumers. The company is now trying to sell the Mate 10 Pro unlocked in the US, but the US lawmakers aren't going make that easy too. They are currently considering a bill that would ban government employees from using Huawei and ZTE phones altogether.
ZTE also issued a statement on the matter. “As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our US suppliers, US customers and the people who use our products.”
ZTE might be a small player in the smartphone industry, but Huawei is slowly making its presence felt worldwide. US is obviously the next big market the company wants to grab a foothold on, but it's not going to be that easy. Now it remains to be seen how the $799 Mate 10 Pro fares in the US.