There's been some echoes of Huawei/Chinese military collaboration, and some hints regarding the close ties of Huawei to the Chinese military, but a new study concludes that a number of Huawei employees have strong military backgrounds in the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Fulbright University Vietnam associate professor Christopher Balding and the Henry Jackson Society, a conservative think tank based in London, investigated Huawei curriculum vitae (or CVs) and discovered closer ties between Huawei and the Chinese military than Huawei is willing to admit.
These CVs, provided from unsecured databases and recruitment firms, reveal that a number of mid-level Huawei employees came to Huawei after previous work with the People's Liberation Army of China (PLA) in intelligence gathering and other military work. The paper by Balding and the Henry Jackson Society says that some Huawei employees worked in "specific instances of hacking or industrial espionage conducted against Western firms."
One CV showed a Huawei employee who, while working at Huawei, also held a teaching and research role at a military university in China (employed by the PLA). Another Huawei employee worked for a Chinese Government entity that specialized in counter intelligence and espionage.
In conclusion, Balding says that, while he cannot say with certainty that Huawei employees have engaged in espionage efforts for the Chinese Government, the closeness between Huawei and the military in a number of CVs leads to that conclusion. Huawei has responded by saying it cannot confirm the information of employees posted online, that it could not validate the Huawei employees Balding points to in his study.
Huawei's response is that Balding doesn't have any concrete proof and is thus, grasping at straws. "We welcome professional and fact-based reporting on investigations into Huawei's transparency. We hope that any further research papers will contain less conjecture when drawing their conclusions, and avoid so many speculative statements about what Professor Balding 'believes,' 'infers,' and 'cannot rule out,' Huawei said in a statement.
This new study showing more Huawei employees with former military ties is troubling especially when one considers that Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei worked in telecommunications while in the Chinese military. Additionally, research papers have been retrieved showing Huawei employees publishing technological research alongside the Chinese military — with the Huawei logo proudly displayed from their research papers.
The fact that Huawei logos are displayed for identity verification on research papers shows that, contrary to what Huawei says, the Shenzhen-based corporation is viewed by the PLA as an extension of the Chinese military.
If that evidence isn't troubling enough, Bloomberg discovered that Huawei employees have cooperated not only in research papers but also research projects in the last ten years, ten research projects to be exact, in everything from AI (artificial intelligence) to satellite images and geographical coordinates.
From the CEO down, it appears as though Huawei has created a culture where ex-PLA troops can continue their work on behalf of the Chinese Government: in technology, where these same employees can put their counter-intelligence and espionage skills to use.
Huawei's espionage capabilities have created fear among White House officials including President Donald J. Trump that the Chinese corporation is a threat to national security. In mid-May, Trump placed Huawei on the US Entity List and forbade American companies from buying or selling to Huawei.
Now after something of a more negotiable conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump is allowing American companies to sell to Huawei. A White House official says that Huawei is to remain on the Entity List, despite American businesses selling again.
The latest security report from Finite State shows that potential backdoors were discovered in at least 55% of Huawei's devices. Nokia CTO Marcus Weldon says that Huawei was financially backed by the government there due to government subsidies and other "funding mechanism," which likely included loans at below-level interest rates, among other financial incentives.
The Huawei-backed Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) says that Huawei still hasn't fixed its software vulnerabilities from a year ago, leading many to think that the software loopholes are intentional rather than accidental. Perhaps the software vulnerabilities are part of the plan rather than part of the problem.