Security fears kill deal between NFL team and Huawei to add Wi-Fi to stadium
As we've often mentioned, back in 2012 the U.S. government called Huawei a national security threat. There was speculation that Huawei phones and networking equipment spy on American consumers and corporations, a fear that continues to this day despite the company's denials. This fear was so pervasive that it led a government advisot to blow up a deal between the NFL's Washington Redskins and Huawei.
Back in 2014, the NFL team in the nation's capital, the Washington Redskins, had worked out a deal with Huawei to outfit the suites at FedEx Field with Wi-Fi.. According to the Wall Street Journal, in return Huawei would get free advertising in the stadium and during broadcasts of Redskins games. This would be quite a deal for a company looking to gain traction in the states.
But one government advisor, Michael Wessel, read about the deal and was concerned. The suites were often occupied by lawmakers and senior government officials, many of whom headed up important agencies. Wessel, a member of a congressional research and advisory panel called the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, was able to get a high ranking government official to make an unofficial complaint to the Redskins, and the deal was squashed. But not before Huawei's name and logo was posted on FedEx Field's electronic signs for a couple of games.
One security expert, Mathy Vanhoef, who works at New York University in Abu Dhabi, says it would be possible for Wi-Fi equipment from Huawei to pick up encrypted email and data from the stadium's suites. But that data wouldn't be useful, the researcher says, because email systems and websites use tough-to-crack encryption. And government officials would probably have another layer of encryption on top. But that information doesn't make Wessel feel better. The government advisor said that it still would have been too risky to allow the Wi-Fi network to be built.