During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing earlier this week, the heads of the FBI, NSA, CIA, and others proffered a narrative that's been permeating throughout U.S. government agencies since 2012: Huawei (and to a lesser extent ZTE) are bad actors that can't be trusted to operate independently in the United States.
According to the head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, "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."
U.S. carriers have tacitly been prohibited from purchasing network equipment from Huawei and ZTE since 2012, but at this hearing, the intelligence chiefs extended that warning to handsets. Pressure from the U.S. government is believed to be what led to AT&T and Verizon pulling their support for the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, which is arriving this week in unlocked form through Amazon, Best Buy, and other retailers.
For its part, Huawei stayed the course with its response, noting that its phones and networking equipment is sold in "170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." The concern that Huawei's and ZTE's close relationships with the Chinese government poses a potential for espionage and opens vectors for cyber attacks that could be avoided by just not using their products.
During CES, when Huawei was all set to announce carrier support for the Mate 10 Pro, the company launched a wide-spanning awareness campaign that introduces Americans to Huawei brand, and the latest flagship, with the tag, "The best phone you've never heard of." It has also employed Wonder Woman star, Gal Gadot, as a spokesperson for the company in future international campaigns.
While there is no evidence that Huawei has offered backdoor access to the Chinese government, it doesn't look like the U.S. government and its affiliated intelligence community is going to let up anytime soon.
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