US lawmakers have launched an investigation into the threat of cyber espionage from Chinese telecoms firms operating in the US, singling out Huawei and ZTE.
The House of Representatives committee on intelligence said yesterday that it was focused on the threat to America's security and critical infrastructure coming from "the expansion of Chinese-owned telecommunications companies - including Huawei and ZTE - into our telecommunications infrastructure".
According to the committee, the probe will be looking at "the extent to which" the companies give the Chinese government the opportunity to spy on the US, whether for political or economic reasons and how much of a threat to critical infrastructure the firms are. Which doesn't seem to offer much chance of the investigation maybe finding that the companies aren't at all involved in spying.
“The fact that our critical infrastructure could be used against us is of serious concern,” Republican congressman and committee chairman Mike Rogers said in a canned statement. “We are looking at the overall infrastructure threat and Huawei happens to be the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but there are other companies that will be included in the investigation as well."
"As the formal investigation begins, I stand by my caution to the American business community about engaging Huawei technology until we can fully determine their motives,” he added.
The investigation comes shortly after an intelligence report presented to Congress alleged that Russia and China are using cyber espionage to steal US economic secrets, a charge China subsequently denied.
"Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage. US private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China, but the intelligence community cannot confirm who was responsible," the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive said in the report.
Following media coverage of the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing that accusing the country of cyber attacks without an investigation was "both unprofessional and irresponsible".
"I hope the international community can abandon prejudice and work hard with China to maintain online security," he added.
Rogers, who is a former FBI agent, said yesterday that the committee "already knows the Chinese are aggressively hacking into our nation's networks … and stealing secrets worth millions of dollars in intellectual property".
A Huawei spokesperson told The Register in an email that the integrity of its gear had been proven by deployment by 45 of the top 50 telecoms service providers around the world "without security incident".
"We acknowledge that network security concerns are very real and we welcome an open and fair investigation, whether by Congressional Committee or otherwise, focused on concerns raised by the interdependent global supply chain used by virtually every telecommunications equipment manufacturer providing solutions in the US and elsewhere," the firm said.
A ZTE statement said: "ZTE is wholly committed to transparency and will cooperate in addressing any inquiries regarding our business. Our company is publicly traded with operations in more than 140 countries and we are confident a fair review will further demonstrate that ZTE is a trustworthy and law-abiding partner for all US carriers and their customers." ®