For years, Huawei and its defenders refused to admit that its networking equipment and other products posed security risks for carriers and users. They often claimed that critics held the company to higher standards than other telecoms because of its Chinese origins. Where was the actual evidence, beyond the innuendos and conspiratorial thinking?
A recent Bloomberg report provides that evidence; the blockbuster story reported that Europe’s largest phone company, Vodafone, discovered “backdoors” hidden in Huawei’s home internet routers from 2009 to 2011. An internal company security report reportedly found six “critical” and nine “major” security breaches. These backdoors could allow Huawei to access user home networks as well as Vodafone’s fixed-access network and broadband network gateways, which “handle subscriber authentication and access to the internet.” Backdoors are methods of evading security measures to access computer systems and encrypted data. The backdoors in Huawei’s equipment made it possible for third parties retrieve information on personal computers. The backdoors were not just confined to Vodafone equipment purchased and installed in Italy. Vulnerabilities were present in the U.K., Germany, Spain and Portugal as well, according to the report.
Given that China’s National Intelligence law requires information sharing between private companies and intelligence agencies, backdoors in telecom equipment manufactured by Chinese businesses opens to the door to espionage.
With this egregious breach coming to light after eight years, one can only imagine the other evasions of security and violations of privacy fostered by Huawei over the last decade. The U.S. and other western governments would be wise to take steps to reduce, if not eliminate, the threat of Huawei equipment and other such vendors from its mobile networks in the future.