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American security chiefs to guard nation against Chinese hardware | Source: Pixabay

US intel chiefs warn their citizens off Chinese phones

SIX top US intelligence chiefs have told a government committee this week that they would not advise American citizens to use either products or services from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTT.

The six included the heads of the NSA, FBI, and CIA, and the director of national intelligence, who initially advised the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb 13 that neither Huawei nor ZTT products should be used by public sector workers and anyone working for, or on behalf of, state agencies.

When asked by committee members whether they would extend this advice further, all six stated that they would not recommend that private US citizens use those products as well.

“This is a challenge I think that is only going to increase, not lessen over time for us. You need to look long and hard at companies like this,” said the NSA’s Chief, Michael Rogers.

FBI Director Chris Wray said: “We are deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications network.”

“That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. It provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Responding to the claims, a statement issued by Huawei said, “Huawei is aware of the range of US government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei’s business in the US market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities.”

Like many Chinese enterprises, Huawei has been setting its sights on foreign markets, including the US. It initially entered a partnership with AT&T aimed at entering the US phone space that was ultimately called off.

Huawei CEO Richard Yu has, in the past, accused American network providers of depriving their customers of choice. It was, allegedly, American law enforcement agencies and legislators who persuaded AT&T to pull out of the deal.

At the committee hearing on Tuesday, the intelligence chiefs congratulated domestic telecoms companies for their ‘measured resistance’ to the influx of potential Chinese imports.

Huawei’s presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month is perhaps not, in itself, proof of Huawei’s intent for the American market specifically; the show is an international event despite its venue this year. But flagship phones like the Mate 10 Pro announced at the event, will now only be sold online for US users. Because most US phone customers bundle their handsets with subscription services, this will severely limit the company’s phones’ uptake.

Early in January, Yu told the South China Morning Post by text, “We have been harmed again,” in response to the news of the ending of the AT&T deal.

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro has a 6-inch display and ships with Huawei’s artificial intelligence chip called the Kirin 970, the first of the company’s handsets to feature it. The Mate 10 is seen as a direct competitor to US domestic models like Apple’s iPhone and the Google Pixel.