Feeds

Huawei, ZTE probe showed no evidence of spying

All they did was sell lousy equipment

Remote control for virtualized desktops

An 18-month investigation by the US House Intelligence Committee into Chinese networking vendors Huawei and ZTE revealed no evidence that either company has been involved in espionage, sources claim.

As reported by Reuters on Wednesday, two sources familiar with the probe said that "certain parts of government really wanted" to uncover evidence of spying, adding, "We would have found it if it were there."

That lack of evidence didn't stop lawmakers from issuing a stern warning to US companies, however, arguing that doing business with either Chinese vendor could pose a security threat.

Earlier this month, Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers said, "China is known to be the major perpetrator of cyber espionage, and Huawei and ZTE failed to alleviate serious concerns throughout this important investigation. American businesses should use other vendors."

But according to Reuters' anonymous sources, those "serious concerns" weren't much more than hunches. Not only did the Congressional probe fail to link Huawei and ZTE to current spying activities, but it found no evidence that either company had engaged in espionage in the past.

Rather, the Intelligence Committee made its recommendation based on "a general sense of foreboding" about what might happen if the Chinese government asked network equipment vendors to help gather intelligence from US customers, according to former CIA analyst Chris Johnson.

That foreboding may have been seeded, at least in part, by the Chinese vendors' US-based competition. Last week, The Washington Post claimed to have uncovered a Cisco marketing document that painted Huawei as a security risk, using language very similar to that found in the Intelligence Committee's report.

When asked directly during whether ZTE took orders from the Chinese government, however, Zhu Jinyun, the company's senior VP for North America and Europe, was insistent.

"The committee's central question has been: would ZTE grant China's government access to ZTE telecom infrastructure equipment for a cyber attack?" Zhu told the Intelligence Committee. "Let me answer emphatically: no! China's government has never made such a request. We expect the Chinese government never to make such a request of ZTE. If such a request were made, ZTE would be bound by US law."

Huawei also denied that it took its orders from the Chinese government, but as with ZTE, its protests seemed to fall on deaf ears. Shortly after Rogers issued his advisory to US companies, Huawei issued a statement accusing the Committee of being "committed to a predetermined outcome."

Bugs, just not the spying kind

But although the Congressional investigation did not turn up any evidence that Huawei and ZTE were engaged in spying, it did reveal other reasons why customers might choose to avoid equipment made by Chinese vendors, sources say.

The Intelligence Committee's investigation into the security of Huawei's router software reportedly found it "riddled with holes," many of which could potentially be exploited by hackers. One expert told Reuters that it was "five times easier" to find a security vulnerability in a Huawei router than a Cisco one.

Those defects didn't seem to have been put there intentionally or maliciously. Rather, they seemed to be the result of ordinary sloppy coding. So it seems Huawei and ZTE customers do run a greater risk being targeted by hackers, after all; just not necessarily by Chinese spies. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
Inside the EYE of the TORnado: From Navy spooks to Silk Road
It's hard enough to peel the onion, are you hard enough to eat the core?
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.