Huawei has been accused of espionage, but the latest article from the Wall Street Journal puts an end to the question of just what Huawei can and will do. Former Department of Homeland Security Chief and former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge says that Huawei cannot continue lying about its espionage activities.
“Huawei’s claims of no wrongdoing are wearing thin. The Wall Street Journal’s newly revealed investigation offers evidence that Huawei employees played a direct role in helping governments spy on political opponents. Accusations that Huawei has inappropriately intercepted private communications have come from multiple different sources, and the Chinese telecom giant’s denial doesn’t make these charges untrue,” Ridge said.
Ridge is referring to the latest article regarding Huawei espionage, titled “Huawei Technicians Helped African Governments Spy On Political Opponents.” The article is a huge eye-opener into just how Huawei partnered with African governments in Uganda and Zambia to help those governments spy on those that disagree with governmental practices.
Huawei surveillance efforts in Uganda and Zambia
In Uganda, Bobi Wine, a pop star, opposed the Ugandan government of President Yoweri Museveni. Uganda’s cyber-surveillance unit was told to seize Wine’s Skype and WhatsApp communications, including texts. The unit couldn’t crack WhatsApp and Skype’s encrypted services. The unit tried to crack these services for days before looking to the Huawei employees in their staff offices. The Huawei technicians cracked open Bobi Wine’s encrypted communications in as little as two days.
Prying into Wine’s private communications, Huawei discovered that the pop star wasn’t organizing a concert but instead, a protest, and, with authorities, were able to shut it down and have him arrested before the protest took place.
In Zambia, political opponents of President Edgar Lungu found their Facebook pages and phones hacked into, thanks to two Huawei experts who “pinpointed the bloggers’ locations” and had secured their arrest with police before the two bloggers were arrested in northwestern Solwezi. Zambia’s ruling party spokesmen said in the WSJ article that when people spread fake news, Zicta (the Zambia Information & Communications Technology Authority, ZICTA) contacts Huawei to handle the problem.
Anyone reading these examples would think Huawei’s efforts are designed to make money. Some would say that espionage is a skill for which people would pay. Unfortunately, that is the reason behind why the US Congress is so adamant about preventing Huawei from having access to our 5G networks, hardware or software.
Additionally, Huawei isn’t just working to provide digital surveillance for the benefit of African governments, but also for the benefit of China. In one specific instance, the WSJ notes that Huawei has its “red logo affixed to the wall” in one room at Uganda’s police headquarters. Remember, the same thing is being done whenever Huawei writes a technological paper and publishes it with the military.
The company name, Huawei, means “the advancement of China,” so it isn’t shocking to think that Huawei’s “safe cities” of digital surveillance it has established for Africa are China’s way of spying on international countries.
Huawei’s digital surveillance in Africa: Evidence for The Trump Ban
It has been said by some that Huawei is getting mistreated in America because it’s Chinese, but the latest WSJ article on Chinese espionage in Africa should put an end to that statement. It’s unbelievable just how much espionage skill Huawei has, though it isn’t surprising; after all, what did you think all those Huawei employees’ ex-military backgrounds was for, anyway? And with the Huawei CEO, Zhengfei served in telecommunications while in the military. Surely, he learned a lifelong skill. He isn’t alone.
It’s not hard to understand that someone with surveillance skills the size of Huawei’s would put them to use at some point. No one gets a skill, sits around, and does nothing with it. And the same can be said for Huawei. It is obviously quite good at intercepting encrypted communications, and it does just that.
With all its skills set, especially in espionage, for whatever reasons, coupled with the fact that Huawei isn’t afraid to “share” its skills set, it appears that Congress is not paranoid, nor is it suspicious of Huawei without reason. If Huawei will share its espionage skills with other countries for financial benefit, why wouldn’t Huawei share such espionage data with China?
Remember, this is the same Huawei whose CEO Ren Zhengfei has said in so many words, “If we were told to spy on the US, we wouldn’t do it. We don’t spy on other citizens because we’d lose clients if we did it.” This is a paraphrase of what’s been said, but it just goes to show that you can’t trust Huawei’s words: Huawei says one thing but does something entirely different.
Some have said they needed concrete proof of just how big a threat Huawei is to 5G networks and security and privacy. Well, if Huawei’s surveillance work in Uganda and Zambia isn’t sufficient proof, no future proof will ever satisfy.
Chinese Government Present At Huawei Events
Another interesting fact about the WSJ article concerns the presence of Chinese government officials at Huawei’s meetings with countries and national governments. When Huawei first started working in Uganda in the early 2000s, Uganda’s donation ceremony was “attended by Chinese government officials.”
In 2017, Uganda’s police force went for training in Beijing, along with Huawei Africa employees and “a senior Chinese embassy official, Chu Maoming.” This same Chu showed Ugandan officials “the capabilities of the Chinese surveillance state,” then flew to Shenzhen, Huawei headquarters, where he “sat in on meetings with Huawei executives.”
Notice how Huawei becomes “government officials” becomes “Huawei” again in the discussion? Government officials are present in talks that Huawei is having as a contractor for a potential client, and then Chinese officials are showing the surveillance capabilities of “the Chinese state.” Why talk about the Chinese Government in such a fashion if Huawei is “privately owned and privately operated”?
Huawei USA Chief Security Officer Andy Purdy said in his CNBC interview that Huawei is privately owned, and yet, could only reveal that CEO Ren Zhengfei owns a mere 2% of the company. So who owns the rest? If the educated guess is right, and Chinese government officials show up every time Huawei has a potential client, then it seems that Huawei is government-owned despite the claims that a number of entities own stock in the company.
It just seems odd that Chinese government officials are so free as to present themselves at every Huawei event. Imagine how creepy it would be if US Government officials were present at every Apple event, or South Korean Government officials were present at every Samsung product launch and executive meeting.
Huawei: An Espionage Danger
Ugandan Parliament member Maxwell Akora has said that he sees surveillance being given into the hands of the Chinese as a major danger. “There appears to be a policy to hand over the country’s entire communications infrastructure to the Chinese. It’s unwise given our concerns about spying and creating backdoor channels.”
The article defeats the idea that Huawei is being unfairly picked on for no reason at all. The company is Chinese state-owned, and is using its digital surveillance tools to spy on other countries for money and for the “advancement of China” (the meaning of the word Huawei). This is Chinese espionage at its best, cloaked in a claim that it’s doing this to protect other countries.
It makes you wonder if the Huawei logo affixed to one of the rooms at Uganda’s police headquarters is also a sign of protection.