Huawei calls America's bluff about evidence of back doors: "Don’t be shy. Publish it"
Mobile networks must include a "lawful interception interface" so that law enforcement officials can access a network with a proper warrant. Every country has its own laws, rules, and regulations, but all demand that their law enforcement agencies have the ability to do this. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. officials who said that Huawei keeps the location of these interfaces secret from their carrier-customers and from officials in the countries that host these networks. This would allow Huawei to access information that is supposed to be available only to law enforcement and some of the carrier's own officials.
Huawei denies accessing intercepted conversations
Reuters reports today that Huawei’s cybersecurity chief John Suffolk has fired back with a denial. "We have no access to this equipment, we don’t know what call or information is being intercepted, we don’t know when it is intercepted," Suffolk stated. "All we do is provide one side of the box which is blind to what’s happening on the other side of the box."In that same report, U.S. national security adviser Robert O'Brien was quoted as saying, "We have evidence that Huawei has the capability secretly to access sensitive and personal information in systems it maintains and sells around the world."
Suffolk also told reporters today that Huawei doesn't make the equipment that is used by the wireless operators and law enforcement to intercept communications going through the network. In addition, he also noted that the United States has yet to show any actual evidence to prove the claims it has made. Huawei's cybersecurity chief is calling the Trump administration's bluff. "We just say: ‘Don’t hide it, don’t be shy. Publish it, let the world see it," Suffolk says of the evidence that U.S. officials claim that they have. "I’m not aware of any operator who has said to Huawei: 'Come and sit in this room and see what’s going on'," he said. "If I found out that our staff was involved with such things, then we would take appropriate action on that."
Huawei is the largest provider of networking equipment in the world and analysts say that its technology is one and a half to two years ahead of rivals like Nokia and Ericsson. In addition, the Chinese manufacturer's strong ties to China's state-run bank allow it to offer its customers generous financing terms. The U.S. has been trying to come up with ways to prop up a rival that could challenge Huawei in this segment of the wireless industry. It asked domestic networking firms like Oracle and Cisco to take on Huawei, but both refused to spend the time or money. It looked at offering loans to Nokia and Ericsson to help them match Huawei's generous financing terms and last week Attorney General William Barr floated the idea of having the U.S. take control of those two companies. Vice President Mike Pence shot down the idea.
Huawei's Suffolk also asked why, if the U.S. allegations about Huawei are true, rivals like Nokia and Ericsson aren't growing their wireless businesses at 30%-40% a year. Answering his own question, the cybersecurity chief said, "The faith of our customers, and you can see this in the results over the past 30 years, gives an indication of what our customers think of those allegations." He also called governments and operators "smart" because they support Huawei in the race to complete 5G networks.
On Friday, Swedish networking company Ericsson said that in terms of the number of commercial contracts it has for work on 5G networks, it is the global leader in providing such networking gear. The Financial Times says that Ericsson has 79 such contracts compared to 63 for Nokia and 50 for Huawei. Ericsson executive vice president Fredrik Jejdling said, "We've deployed 24 [live] networks across the world [in 14 countries]. We've been first to deploy networks across four continents. So for us, it's hard to see anyone ahead of us currently...we believe we have a competitive portfolio that is on a par or ahead of our competitors."