In an unusual move, United States intelligence agencies have just told Americans not to buy smartphones made by Huawei and ZTE from China.
There is a risk that these two companies are beholden to a foreign government, thus providing the capacity for undetected espionage, according to FBI director Chris Wray, who was testifying in front of a US senate committee on Tuesday.
Top officials from the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency also warned that the Chinese tech companies posed a security threat to American customers, reported CNN.
How serious is this stern warning ?
FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that the FBI was “deeply concerned” about the risks posed by Huawei and ZTE, Chinese companies that sell both phones and telecommunications equipment.
“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing a company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” he said.
That position of power would allow Huawei or ZTE “the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure, it provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steals information and provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”
He commended AT&T and Verizon for heeding the government’s warnings regarding Huawei, which led to the Mate 10 Pro not getting carrier support in the US.
Is the validity at the stake?
Russian cyber security firms, such as Kaspersky Lab, have been labelled a security threat in the US. Needless to say, there is also distrust of US-made technology after the NSA was exposed repeatedly for it’s the wide-scale surveillance and hacking of anything from Windows software to hard disks.
China has itself blocked Facebook and Google, as it built its own tech giants like Tencent, Baidu and Huawei to first cater to its local market, then expand globally.
One thing is certain – both Huawei and ZTE still have a lot to do to allay fears and build up their brand image, despite recent progress. The Year of the Dog is going to bring some familiar challenges that they have to somehow overcome.