Cybersecurity

Chinese telecom giant blasts House report

Rep. Michael  Rogers, R-Mich., said that investigators could come to no other conclusion than that Chinese telecommunications companies pose threats to national security.

Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Mich., said that investigators could come to no other conclusion than that Chinese telecommunications companies pose threats to national security. // Carlos Osorio/AP file photo

The Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei lashed out on Monday over a congressional report that accused Chinese companies of undermining American cybersecurity.

Huawei executive William Plummer called the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation a “political distraction” and the subsequent report a “tired rehash of innuendo” that “willfully ignored” technical and commercial realities.

“While the report that was issued today is quite strong on rhetoric it is utterly lacking in substance,” he said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. “Huawei unequivocally denies the allegations in the report.”

House Intelligence Chairman Michael Rogers, R-Mich., said on Monday that investigators could come to no other conclusion than that Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE pose threats to national security and should be avoided by American companies and government agencies alike.

Rogers and the committee's ranking member, Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., formally unveiled the report on Monday that accuses the two companies of hiding their links to the Chinese government and potentially undermining the security of U.S. computer and communications networks.

The unclassified report stops short of specifically identifying examples of cyber espionage by the companies, but Rogers said Huawei and ZTE were unable or unwilling to prove that their products and services wouldn't be used to spy on or attack U.S. networks.

“As this report shows, we have serious concerns about Huawei and ZTE, and their connection to the communist government of China,” Rogers said. “China is known to be the major perpetrator of cyberespionage, and Huawei and ZTE failed to alleviate serious concerns throughout this important investigation.”

ZTE, which dodged the allegations of bribery, corruption and other violations that were lobbed at Huawei, had a more conciliatory response.

"It is noteworthy that, after a year-long investigation, the Committee rests its conclusions on a finding that ZTE may not be ‘free of state influence,'" David Dai Shu, ZTE’s director of global public affairs, said in a statement. "This finding would apply to any company operating in China. The Committee has not challenged ZTE’s fitness to serve the US market based on any pattern of unethical or illegal behavior.”

Plummer criticized the report for being light on details and said his company has never been contacted by the FBI over any cyberespionage concerns.

The unclassified version of the report contained few concrete examples of cyber incidents but instead focused on questions that remain unanswered on issues such as the companies' ties to the Chinese government. A classified version contains more evidence, according to the report.

Rogers defended the investigation and warned companies and agencies to consider national security when deciding whether to do business with the companies. “Any bug, beacon, or backdoor put into our critical systems could allow for a catastrophic and devastating domino effect of failures throughout our networks,” he said. 

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