Future Tense

Huawei Accuses NSA of “Illegal Practices” After Spying Revelation

Huawei CEO Richard Yu

Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

The National Security Agency appears to have been caught spying on the Chinese technology company Huawei. And Huawei is furious about it. On Monday, I reported here that a host of new documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had been revealed on the Brazilian TV network Globo. The new files offer a significant amount of fresh details about surveillance programs operated by the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ. One of the documents, reportedly taken from an NSA training presentation dated May 2012, showed a number of surveillance targets. They included a Saudi bank, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the financial cooperative SWIFT, and Huawei. It’s fair to say Huawei is not pleased. The company has issued an angry statement by email, accusing the NSA of “illegal practices” and raising concerns about industrial espionage:

Huawei is well-aware that our systems and networks are under regular attack—this is the case with most large, multinational companies, which present an attractive target for industrial espionage. While Huawei has not detected any U.S. Government intrusions into our systems, we are very disturbed to hear that the NSA has attempted to penetrate and compromise our networks and information. Needless to say, we utterly object to such illegal practices and, out of concern for any related industrial espionage by the NSA or others, we will redouble our efforts to prevent and expose such intrusive activity in the future.
Huawei, a Fortune 500 company with revenue of about $35 billion in 2012, is the world’s second-biggest maker of routers, switches, and telecom equipment. The Shenzhen-headquartered tech giant has previously been accused by U.S. lawmakers of possible complicity in secret Chinese government espionage operations. In October 2012, the House intelligence committee said the company posed a “threat to U.S. national security interests” because it feared that it could be building in secret backdoors to its equipment for Chinese spies to use for snooping. Huawei says the allegations are unfounded. But the latest Snowden revelations suggest that the NSA sees the company as a credible threat and, all along,  has been spying on Huawei—to find out if it is spying on the U.S. government.