Even though Chinese networking vendors Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. are several months removed from stinging rebukes from the U.S. and French governments, recent statements from one Huawei executive suggest the company remains eager to contradict allegations that it serves as an intelligence-gathering extension of the Chinese government.
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Huawei's clash with the U.S. government garnered attention last year. Following a year-long investigation into the threat Huawei and ZTE pose to U.S. interests, the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence rebuked both vendors for providing what it called “incomplete, contradictory and evasive responses to the Committee’s core concerns." The committee labeled the two companies a threat to U.S. national security and suggested they be effectively kicked out of the U.S. telecommunications market and investigated for unfair trade practices, despite what some called "little concrete evidence of wrongdoing."
A similar scene played out in France in July 2012, when French senator Jean-Marie Bockel openly recommended, in a report on cyberdefense, a "total prohibition in Europe of core routers and other sensitive IT equipment coming from China." According to the report, the move was deemed necessary because such network equipment is "highly sensitive" as part of "information systems’ security" for numerous governments, and "nothing would prevent a manufacturing country to implant some sort of monitoring, intercepting or even disruptive system in that equipment."
In his report, Bockel justified his recommendation by stating that, "in the U.S., authorities lately took several measures to limit the adoption of equipment from Huawei and ZTE because of homeland security considerations."
But, according to Quentin, senator Bockel merely conducted what he called "a rather quick investigation, based on interviews -- apart from us. … He went to the U.S. where he listened to what local stakeholders told him."
Quentin added: "He based his conviction on the opinion of people he met in [the] U.S., at first, and then on a context of unconfirmed rumors. I’m not stating he is being insincere. I’m just stating that no one, anywhere, has ever found anything" supporting the congressional committee's findings.
Back in October, Bockel told LeMagIT that he had been convinced that Huawei products posed a threat at the security posture of European governments by "precise, technical details" given by the French national agency for IT security, ANSSI. According to Bockel, ANSSI "had audited enough of [Huawei's] core routers to get convinced" that they could pose a threat to national security.
However, Quentin rejected that assertion, saying that ANSSI "audited [our equipment] as well as other French stakeholders, but they found nothing; nothing at all." He added that some Huawei customers helped conduct that evaluation by putting some equipment at the disposal of the agency. But Quentin said he’s more than ready to cooperate in future evaluations of Huawei's products.
While he acknowledged that some vulnerabilities have been found in Huawei’s equipment, Quentin stated that no vendor can say for sure that its products are free of vulnerabilities.
Quentin sought to assure customers that his company is a victim of an ongoing misperception among government officials, perpetuated by unsubstantiated "rumors going round and round, getting amplified."