The US government is attempting to persuade allies to stop using Huawei equipment due to security fears, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Sources claim that US government officials have met with counterparts in Germany, Japan, and Italy, and are reportedly considering offering financial incentives to countries who opt not to use equipment from the Chinese manufacturer.
Already this year the US has banned government use of Huawei-made equipment and refuses to let retail stores on military bases sell Huawei handsets. However, there are now fears that US military bases located overseas could be made vulnerable to hacking attempts if their internet traffic travels over commercial networks in other countries built using Huawei hardware. The roll-out of new 5G networks also adds additional security concerns.
Although worries about the use of Chinese-made telecom equipment predate the current administration, the souring of relations with China and an ongoing trade war spearheaded by President Trump have increased cybersecurity fears. Although Huawei maintains that it operates independently from its government, one senator claimed earlier this year that the company “is effectively an arm of the Chinese government.” The heads of the FBI, CIA and NSA have all warned against using phones and other services made by the manufacturer.
Wary of these concerns, Huawei opened a UK center designed to check its equipment for security faults and backdoors although a government oversight board later said that this effort offered “limited assurance.” A similar center opened in Germany this month.
In a statement in response to the WSJ article, Huawei expressed its surprise and said it was concerned about reported efforts to influence US allies. “If a government’s behavior extends beyond its jurisdiction,” it said, “such activity should not be encouraged.”