Chinese Phones Identified as Security Risk Sold at U.S. Military Bases

Stars & Stripes reports that smartphones made by the Chinese company Huawei are being sold to U.S. military personnel at exchanges on military bases in Germany. Defense officials explained that until Huawei products are explicitly banned by statute or regulation, they will remain available. A bill that would bar U.S. government contractors from using Huawei equipment is currently making its way through Congress. In a February briefing for the Senate Intelligence Committee, the heads of six U.S. intelligence and security agencies, including the CIA, FBI, and NSA, advised all American citizens to avoid using Huawei electronics. They expressed similar reservations about Chinese telecom company ZTE. “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,” said FBI Director Chris Wray. “That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage,” Wray said. Huawei figures prominently in a new report on cyber espionage risks commissioned by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Huawei executives rejected the concerns expressed at the Senate hearing, accusing American government agencies of conspiring to provide U.S. companies with an unfair advantage by keeping Chinese companies out of the market. “Where is U.S. President Donald Trump’s belief in fair trade when he keeps shutting out Chinese companies and products from the U.S. market?” said China’s state-run Xinhua news service in February. “Setting up trade barriers at the excuse of national security might be the worst option to build a prosperous and free market.” Huawei maintained its products are employed by governments around the world, a point echoed by critics of the U.S. intelligence advisory who noted that security-conscious Europeans appear to be as comfortable with using equipment from the Chinese company as they are with suppliers from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. Huawei has grown into the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, surpassed only by Samsung. Also, in a point that would later be echoed by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review report, critics pointed out that Chinese chips can now be found in so many cell phones that it’s difficult to tell which are potentially compromised and which are relatively “clean.”

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